Battle of the briefs as ex-minister and wife get court date

 

Chris Huhne was never the centre of a show quite like this in his years as a fast-rising politician. Cameras, lights, celebrity lawyers, piped music and a nutcase in fancy dress were all there to enliven up a short and very routine court hearing.

The former Energy Secretary, who has been the Liberal Democrat MP for Eastleigh since 2005, and his estranged wife, Vicky Pryce, the former head of the Government Economic Service, spent 10 minutes in the dock at Southwark Crown Court while a judge and barristers discussed dates. The main excitement was discovering who was on their legal teams.

Mr Huhne's barrister is John Kelsey-Fry QC, among whose previous clients are the Tottenham manager, Harry Redknapp, the film director Roman Polanski and the England footballer Steven Gerrard. Ms Pryce is represented by Clare Montgomery QC, famed as one of the sharpest brains on the circuit. She heads the prosecution team in the case of the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, who is fighting to avoid extradition to Sweden. It is alleged that in 2003, Ms Pryce took the penalty points for a speeding offence when Mr Huhne was the person at the wheel. Both face a charge of perverting the course of justice. The defendants did not speak except to confirm their names.

Their trial, which could last two weeks, is scheduled for October.

The short hearing offered a glimpse of the impact the Olympics is expected to have on London life, when Mr Justice Saunders suggested that they avoid reconvening in July, because it would be difficult to travel to and from the court amid the Olympic traffic.

Probably the worst ordeal of the morning was leaving the court. Photographers had been joined by a lone eccentric dressed in Irish folk dress. He had brought along a loudspeaker that played Irish jigs on a loop and he bounded up to be photographed with Mr Huhne, brandishing a placard which promised that Jesus is coming to sweep away all politicians.

Mr Huhne walked stiffly through the scrum and climbed into a waiting taxi without saying a word.

M'learned friends: QCs for Huhne and Pryce

John Kelsey-Fry (for Huhne)

On a high since successfully representing Harry Redknapp against allegations of tax evasion, forays into sport have also included successfully defending footballer Steven Gerrard against an affray charge and jockey Kieren Fallon over race-fixing allegations. He successfully acted for director Roman Polanski – accused of child-sex offences – in a defamation case against Vanity Fair.

Clare Montgomery (for Pryce)

She's been dubbed "two brains" for her capacity to analyse cases in fine detail. Clients have included the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and the former Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra. She is also representing the prosecution in attempts to extradite Julian Assange of WikiLeaks to Sweden. Her triumphs include appeals against murder convictions for Sion Jenkins and Sally Clark.

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