Vicky Pryce was described in court as “one of the most powerful women in the country” who told bare-faced lies to end the political career of her ex-husband Chris Huhne, while engineering her own escape from prosecution for taking his speeding points.
Ms Pryce, 60, told at least four lies in the witness box about the episode that brought down her husband while trying to pervert the course of justice for a second time by fooling the jury, alleged prosecutor Andrew Edis, QC.
They included the claim she did not want to “nail” her husband after she learnt in 2010 that he had been having a long-term affair with an aide that led to the end of their 26-year marriage, Southwark Crown Court was told. However, she wrote an email to a journalist saying she wanted to “nail him more than ever,” the jury heard.
She told another “big whopping lie” about not knowing where she was on the night of the speeding offence, Mr Edis said. Ms Pryce, an economist, claimed she was forced to take her husband’s speeding points – but only after an earlier claim that somebody else had done so turned out to be false, said Mr Edis. He added: “One of the most powerful, talented, intelligent and trusted women in the country wishes you to think that when she took some points for her husband in 2003, she had no real choice in doing so.”
In closing speeches, Mr Edis said to the jury: “Is she the quivering jelly kind? No she isn’t. Is she the sort of person who can stand her ground and make her own choices? Yes, she is.”
Ms Pryce has accepted she took the speeding points for her husband, an ex-Liberal Democrat cabinet minister, but claims the defence of “marital coercion” saying she was put in “an impossible situation” by her bullying husband, the court heard.
She accepted the penalty points so he was not given a driving ban while he campaigned for a Westminster seat. But Mr Edis told the jury Ms Pryce was not under the thumb of her husband.
Mr Huhne last week resigned as MP for Eastleigh, in Hampshire, after admitting he passed points to his wife when his car was caught speeding by a camera on the M11 in 2003. Mr Edis told the jury it was Ms Pryce’s plan to bring down her husband since she first approached The Mail on Sunday about the point-swapping story in November 2010, five months after news of the affair with his aide, Carina Trimingham, broke.
“Having heard what happened anybody would understand the... desire for revenge,” said Mr Edis. “Whether someone would still be in the grip of it nearly three years later is perhaps another thing.” Mr Edis said it was naive to think Ms Pryce had let slip the issue about the points over lunch with The Sunday Times political editor, Isabel Oakeshott, in March 2011 because she had found someone she thought was her “soul mate”. The story first appeared in the newspaper two months later.
Julian Knowles, QC, defending, said it would have been “pretty odd” if Ms Pryce had deliberately spoken out about the speeding points to get it in the paper. “Why did she ever open her mouth and expose herself to the risk of prosecution,” he said. “People don’t readily confess to crimes they have committed.”