Jury in Vicky Pryce trial retires to consider verdict over Chris Huhne's speeding points

 

The jury in the retrial of Chris Huhne's ex-wife has retired to consider its verdict.

Pryce denies perverting the course of justice by taking speeding points for Huhne in 2003.

The economist, 60, from Crescent Grove, Clapham, south London, is using a defence of marital coercion, claiming Huhne forced her to take the points.

The former energy secretary has pleaded guilty to the charge and will be sentenced at the conclusion of proceedings again his former wife.

A jury in Pryce's original trial failed to reach a verdict, prompting a retrial, and today the jury of seven men and five women retired to consider their verdict at Southwark Crown Court.

The allegation dates back to 2003, when Huhne's BMW was clocked speeding on the way back from Stansted Airport as the then-MEP returned from Strasbourg.

He already had nine points on his licence and risked being banned - which he feared would affect his chances of being nominated as the Lib Dem candidate for Eastleigh, Hampshire.

Pryce, who had a clean licence at the time, said he forced her to take the points, nominating her as the driver then waving a pen at her, forcing her to sign a form confirming she committed the offence.

Her daughter Georgia Beesley, as well as the economist's brother George Courmouzis, told the court she had confided in them at the time, saying Huhne had forced her into taking the points.

Huhne, now 58, lost his licence anyway later that year for another offence. Despite his concerns he went on to be nominated as the Lib Dem candidate for Eastleigh, winning the seat in 2005.

The court heard that after Huhne left Pryce for PR adviser Carina Trimingham in June 2010, confessing to an affair ending their 26-year marriage, she pursued a press campaign to bring him down.

During the trial it emerged that Pryce - once a top economist for the government - enlisted the help of lawyer and part-time judge Constance Briscoe as she tried to reveal the points-swapping to "nail" Huhne.

Briscoe has since been arrested and was dropped as a witness after it emerged she allegedly lied to police about her contact with the press.

The women first approached the Mail on Sunday, the court heard, falsely claiming Huhne had passed points to a constituency aide.

Pryce went on to reveal the story to Sunday Times political editor Isabel Oakeshott in March 2011.

The story was published on May 8 2011, prompting a police investigation, and Huhne and Pryce were charged with perverting the course of justice in February last year.

Huhne, then energy secretary, stepped down from the Cabinet, vowing to fight the charges.

Lengthy attempts by his legal team to get the case thrown out failed and he dramatically changed his plea on the first day of trial, resigning as Eastleigh MP.

During her trial mother-of-five Pryce told the court her ex-husband prioritised his political ambitions throughout their marriage, forcing her to compromise her own successful career.

She revealed that Huhne demanded she have an abortion in 1990 because it would be bad for his career, but said she went on to resist the same demands two years later, giving birth to their youngest child.

She said she was left fragile by their break-up, and claimed she wanted to expose his wrongdoing, not ruin his career.

Her barrister Julian Knowles QC said the prosecution description of her as a "tough, armour-plated career woman" was false.

But prosecutor Andrew Edis QC said Pryce was a capable, manipulative and intelligent woman who acted of her own free will.

PA

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