The two central players in the case of Chris Huhne's allegedly dodged speeding ticket appeared in court for the first time yesterday over a matter dating back nine years that cost the millionaire Liberal Democrat his seat in the Cabinet.
Prosecutors claim that the former Energy Secretary Mr Huhne, 57, persuaded his then wife, Vicky Pryce, to take the three points that should have been placed on his driving licence in 2003 for speeding. Both are accused of perverting the course of justice. Technically, the two co-defendants, who were married for 26 years, sat together in the dock yesterday at Westminster magistrates' court in London.
It was a brief coming together – it lasted just six minutes – but there was not a glance, not an acknowledgement, not a shared word. Mr Huhne and his ex-wife arrived apart, sat apart and left apart.
At the start of the hearing Ms Pryce, 59, who arrived first at court No 1, sat at one end of a row of seats in front of the glass-surrounded dock – and placed her coat next to her – while her ex-husband arrived five minutes later to take a seat at the far end. He slightly turned his back to her to face the magistrate's chair.
But the senior district judge Howard Riddle ordered that the two should go into the dock. "The rule in this court is defendants, whoever they are, are in the dock," he said.
The pair took similar positions inside the dock about 10ft apart.
During the brief hearing, Ms Pryce, an economist, and Mr Huhne spoke only to confirm their names, their dates of birth and their addresses: his in Eastleigh, Hampshire; hers in Clapham, south-west London.
The court heard that the case would be adjourned to 2 March for the next hearing at Southwark Crown Court and the pair will remain on bail. The hearing lasted a total of six minutes.
The case dates back to March 2003 when Mr Huhne's car was allegedly caught by a speed camera on the motorway between Stansted airport in Essex and London. Accusations of impropriety only emerged in 2010 after Mr Huhne, who has five children, admitted to an affair with an adviser Carina Trimingham and ended his marriage.
He left his Cabinet job on 3 February after the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, announced that the pair would face criminal charges following an eight-month police investigation. The charge carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.