Constance Briscoe guilty: Chris Huhne brands judge a 'compulsive and self-publicising fantasist; over lying to police over speeding scandal

Barrister had denied intending to pervert the course of justice

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Chris Huhne has branded one of the country's top female barristers a "compulsive and self-publicising fantasist" after she was found guilty of lying to police investigating the speeding points scandal involving the former energy secretary and his ex-wife.

Constance Briscoe denied trying to pervert the course of justice but was convicted by a jury at the Old Bailey on Thursday.

The 56-year-old did not react in the dock as the verdict was delivered after five hours of deliberation.

Mr Huhne, the former Liberal Democrat energy minister, and his ex-wife, Vicky Pryce, were both jailed after it emerged that she took driving penalty points for him in 2003.

Briscoe, who has been suspended from her work as a barrister and part-time judge since her arrest in October 2012, was accused of making inaccurate statements to police about her contact with the press about the speeding story.

She was set to be a witness in Ms Pryce's trial but was dropped after the arrest as she could not be "relied upon as a witness of truth", police said.

The first charge alleged that between May 2011 and October 2012 she provided police with two statements that were inaccurate and the second charge alleged she claimed an altered copy of her witness statement was correct in October 2012.

A third charge alleged that she deliberately got an expert to view the wrong version of her witness statement.

The jury at her first trial at Southwark Crown Court failed to reach a verdict and a retrial was ordered.

Judge Jeremy Baker will sentence her on Friday.

The speeding scandal led to Mr Huhne's resignation from the cabinet and eventually from his post as MP for Eastleigh.

He initially denied the allegations but admitted perverting the course of justice in February last year.

In a statement released after Thursday's verdict, he said defendants that Briscoe prosecuted for the Crown Prosecution Service could seek a review.

He said: “Constance Briscoe has been revealed as a compulsive and self-publicising fantasist.

"If I had not forced the disclosure that was then used to convict Briscoe, she would never have been brought to justice. I take the old-fashioned view that you should not have the evidence against you fitted up by the police and the Crown Prosecution Service, who went on relying on Briscoe even after they knew she was lying.

“British justice is likely to be a lot fairer with Briscoe behind bars. If she can make up the witness statements used as the key evidence against me, she is clearly capable of hiding evidence she should have disclosed to the defence in the many cases that she prosecuted for the Crown Prosecution Service.

"Aggrieved defendants will now seek a CPS review.

“There is also an issue for the bar and the judiciary ...the Bar, the Crown Prosecution Service and the judiciary went on entrusting her with responsibility for people's lives because they were not prepared to blow the whistle on one of their own.”

Briscoe is also known for her memoir Ugly, about abuse at the hands of her mother through her childhood in south London.

Detective Inspector John McDermott, who investigated Briscoe with Kent Police, said the verdict showed no-one was “above the law”.

He said: “In her roles as a Recorder Judge and as a barrister, if anyone should understand the importance of preserving public justice it should be Constance Briscoe.

“In failing to co-operate with police, she very nearly had a detrimental impact on the convictions of two other people in relation to a historic speeding offence.

“Had it not been for the hard work of the officers in these cases, the offenders may never have been convicted.

“The overwhelming evidence uncovered by officers meant the jury had no choice but to find Ms Briscoe guilty. Today shows that no one is above the law and perverting the course of justice is a serious offence.”

Additional reporting by PA