'I definitely want to nail him': Calls expose depth of Vicky Pryce’s hostility to Chris Huhne

Jurors hear tapes between Huhne and his former wife about the ten-year-old motoring offence

Vicky Pryce is a strong-minded and manipulative woman who revealed her ex-husband Chris Huhne's lies about a 2003 speeding fine in an act of revenge when he left her for a younger woman, a court heard.

Ms Pryce, 60, tipped off a newspaper in an attempt to "nail" her former husband and destroy his career over the "very bad way" that he treated her when he ended the couple's 26-year marriage in 2010 following an affair with his aide Carina Trimingham, Southwark Crown Court heard.

The highly regarded economist sought to trick her husband into a confession in four taped telephone calls designed to back up her story to allow publication of the scandal in a Sunday newspaper, the jury heard. In a series of highly charged calls – in which she refers to Huhne's bisexual partner as "your f****** man" – Ms Pryce denies ever contacting the media yet repeatedly presses Huhne to confess to making her take his penalty points for speeding.

During the recordings – described by Andrew Edis, QC, for the prosecution, as "two manipulative people trying unsuccessfully to manipulate each other" – Huhne steadfastly denies having asked her to take his penalty points. At one point, he accuses her of acting in an "entirely unbalanced way".

Huhne, 58, tells his ex-wife and her friends to stop telling "ridiculous stories" to the media and says that articles about the penalty points will not appear if they don't talk to reporters.

Ms Pryce responds: "Why would I tell anyone about me taking your points. It's not in my interests. Are you a moron?"

She adds in a later recorded call: "I cannot just lie 'cause the last thing I want is for it to come out and I've actually perjured myself or whatever the f*** it is that you do."

Huhne, who has admitted perverting the course of justice, had falsely claimed that his wife was driving his black BMW, with its personalised registration plate of H11HNE, to avoid racking up 12 penalty points and being banned from driving.

He is currently on bail and faces a prison sentence, while the trial of his ex-wife started. She accepts that she took the points on her husband's behalf but denies the same charge, claiming that she was coerced by the former Energy Secretary into accepting the points.

The court heard that Ms Pryce started plotting her husband's downfall in 2010 and was in contact with two newspapers over the story. Isabel Oakeshott, the political editor of The Sunday Times, encouraged Ms Pryce, saying she could inflict "maximum and perhaps fatal damage to Chris" if she told the story of the swapped points over two weeks in the newspaper.

In emails obtained by the prosecution from March 2011, Ms Oakeshott told Ms Pryce: "It achieves your dual objective of bringing Chris down, if we can, without seriously damaging your own reputation in the process."

In follow-up emails, Ms Pryce sought reassurance that the story would bring down her ex-husband although she wanted the articles to focus on the "political wife" and the glass ceiling, with the revelations about Huhne coming out in "snippets".

She added: "I definitely want to nail him more than ever, actually, and would love to do it soon."

Ms Oakeshott then warned of the minor risk that Ms Pryce herself could face prosecution and said she would speak to her lawyers.

She also said: "I think you could make yourself out to be very much the honourable one saying it has been on your conscience… You knew it was wrong but you were bullied into it… That would make you sound pretty good."

Mr Edis, opening the case for the prosecution, told the jury of eight women and four men that they would have to decide whether she was a "strong-minded and manipulative woman" or whether she could be a victim of "marital coercion".

He asked if it was conceivable that Ms Pryce could be put in a position in 21st century Britain where she was unable to make an independent decision.

Mr Edis said that she had agreed to "play ball" with her husband when he was initially caught by the speed camera and the offence was unreported for years. The high-profile economist was a "clever, subtle" woman who tried to bring maximum damage to her husband while she trying to protect herself from prosecution after the break-up of her marriage, Mr Edis said. The marriage came to an end in "horrible circumstances" and no ties of loyalty remained.

"She was distressed but also angry and she wanted some revenge," the prosecutor said. "He did resign, he pleaded guilty, he is not a cabinet minister any more – so the plan worked."

The case continues.

The tapes: 'You know full well I took your points'

The jury yesterday heard four phone calls taped by Vicky Pryce (VP) in an apparent attempt to trap her husband into a confession. The following are extracts from 27 minutes of secret recordings between Chris Huhne (CH) and Ms Pryce.

Huhne advises his wife not to speak to the press she says are camped outside her door:

VP: There are people outside wanting to know what happened re you making me take the points.

CH: Can I suggest that if you want to avoid journalists doorstepping you, you stop telling ridiculous stories to the press and that's a very sensible thing.

Ms Pryce responds angrily to suggestions that she made up stories about her taking the points:

VP: Why would I tell anyone about me taking your points? It's not in my interest. Are you a moron?

CH: Well all I suggest is it's not in anybody's interest that you should tell nonsense to the papers and I think you should be very cautious about it.

VP: Excuse me what is nonsense? That they [the media] are out there and I might go and tell them nonsense. Can you explain to me what you mean by nonsense? You know full well I took your points.

Huhne denies ever taking the points:

VP: They [the media] are there and if you like me to I can go and tell them the truth, would you like me to?

CH: You can do whatever you like, but all I'm saying is I'm going to tell them the truth which is of course that I absolutely deny that you ever took the points for me.

VP: You're gonna tell them you deny that I've ever taken your points when somebody clearly told them that I had? When I had absolutely nothing to do with it? Who the f*** told them this? It's my reputation that's on the line just as much as yours, can you explain to me who the f*** told them this?

Huhne claims that she is out to destroy his career:

CH: I will tell them the truth which is you have been maliciously briefing the press because you told me that you wanted to ruin my political career.

VP: Really, when did I tell you I wanted to ruin your political career? When?

CH: Absolutely fine, I know what you're up to.

VP: Chris would you like me to tell them that you told me you wanted me to lose my job and you threatened me?

CH: I... absolutely not true.

VP: You said to me when we met at the coffee shop, you said to me that you were going to, that I would lose my job because of these supposed stories that are out there about you. You also threatened me to come back.

CH: You are behaving in an entirely unbalanced way.

Ms Pryce bemoans the downfall of their relationship.

VP: We used to be husband and wife, I took your points, you know that full well. I am prepared though to lie for you as I have done all along, but they are pressurising me all the f***ing time, I can't even get home without having people outside my f***ing door whether it's to do with your f***ing man or whether it's to do with your f***ing points, and it's got nothing to do with me.

CH: Fine.

Huhne on the tactics of the media.

CH: When the [media] ring up and they say we have it on very good authority, we're going to run this story, yeah crap, all that means is that they are fishing for someone to stand it up and if you don't give them any comment they won't, they can't run it, there's no story here so all you've gotta do, if you want to stay out of papers

VP: You want me to just lie to people basically, like you have done continuously?

CH: You do not have to, anyway you have told various lies to the papers.

VP: Like what? Give me one.

CH: I have a Saturday to get on with, it's entirely up to you what you do. I think you're intelligent enough to work out if you don't want to get into the papers you don't tell them.

VP: Don't be ridiculous, you're the one who lies.

CH: No, bye.

Huhne warns Ms Pryce of the dan- gers of speaking out about the story.

CH: There is no way, look, there is no way that there is any evidence of this story unless you decide to give some legs to it by saying something, OK?

VP: I just cannot lie 'cause the last thing I want is for it to come out and I've actually perjured myself or whatever the f*** it is that you do.

CH: There's no question of that, OK? The last thing you want to do is have some half-baked story running in The Sunday Times alleging that you've taken points for me and then you find that you're being rung up by the DVLC [DVLA] and getting a policeman asking whether you've actually broken the law.

Extracts from the taped Pryce-Huhne conversations

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future