The jailed ex-Cabinet Minister Chris Huhne returned to court today to fight a £100,000 claim for police costs and legal fees racked up before he admitted his role in covering up a decade-old driving offence.
Huhne’s legal team offered to pay less than a quarter of the £108,000 sought by the prosecution, which launched further inquiries after he claimed that his vengeful ex-wife had cooked up a story that he had passed his speeding penalty points to her.
The former politician had maintained his innocence up to the moment that his trial was due to start in March, when he pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice.
Both he, and his wife Vicky Pryce, 61, who was found guilty after a second trial, were jailed for eight months. They are both expected to be released on an electronic tag next month after serving a quarter of their sentence.
The legal wrangling continued yesterday as a judge was asked to consider how much each of them had to pay to cover the costs of preparing the case.
The prosecution sought £48,695 from his wife and £108,539 from Mr Huhne because of the extra costs totted up as he tried to get the case thrown out of court.
The former Energy Secretary, wearing a blue suit and tie, was brought from the open prison in Gloucestershire where he is serving his sentence, for the hearing at Southwark Crown Court. His ex-wife did not attend.
“We have said his abuse of process argument which he ran vigorously, until he lost, at great cost to the public purse was based on a lie,” said Andrew Edis, QC, counsel for the prosecution. “That’s why all this money against him has been spent. He didn’t have to do that – but he did.”
Allegations were made by his legal team against the “probity and competence” of the prosecution and police, which led to officers’ telephone records being trawled.
“All of that was his free choice and it carries a bill,” said Mr Edis. “That bill is £108,539.”
Mr Huhne’s legal team said that police only uncovered potential wrong-doing after they pushed for further inquiries.
Mr Huhne passed his speeding points to his ex-wife after he was caught by a speeding camera on the M11 in May 2003 and was facing a driving ban while he campaigned for his first Westminster seat. Vicky Pryce went public with the allegations following the acrimonious break-up of their marriage in 2010. It sparked a police investigation, forced Mr Huhne to quit his Cabinet job and then lost his liberty in March.
The trial judge, Mr Justice Sweeney, will rule on the level of costs next week.