The Trial: Right to the end, Chris Huhne thought his lawyers could get him off

 

Twelve months ago, when Chris Huhne stepped down from the Cabinet, he went before the television cameras and confidently declared his innocence of a 10-year-old crime: "I intend to fight this in the courts and I am confident that a jury will agree."

A year later, the story of Huhne's desperate and expensive attempts to prevent a jury from ever standing in judgment can finally be told. In a series of legal challenges, headed by one of Britain's best defence barristers, the senior Liberal Democrat railed against the "poisonous" media campaign over a 2003 speeding offence that yesterday destroyed his political career.

In the months before his capitulation yesterday, the 58-year-old was confidently briefing friends and colleagues about the likely collapse of the "gossamer-thin" case against him. One – a judge and Liberal Democrat loyalist – even tweeted that the case against him would be dropped last month.

Now facing months in jail for perverting the course of justice, the multimillionaire faces a huge legal bill and the end of a political career that saw him come within a few votes of a shot at Deputy Prime Minister.

The seeds of his downfall were sown on 12 March 2003, when Huhne's BMW was clocked travelling at 69mph in a 50mph zone at 11.23pm, on the M11 from Stansted airport to London. A penalty notice was sent out and his then wife, Vicky Pryce, took the points.

Things might have ended there but months after the failure of the Huhne-Pryce marriage following his long-running affair with his press aide, Carina Trimingham, a series of stories appeared in The Mail on Sunday and The Sunday Times in May 2011 that sparked an inquiry by Essex Police.

Chris Huhne's teenage son, Peter, had his telephone seized during a police raid on the family home in Clapham, south London, and it was revealed that Peter had put pressure on his father to come clean about what he had done. In an attempt to have the texts struck out of evidence, Huhne's legal team read out some of the most raw and sensitive text messages between father and son during a court hearing last month.

In the texts, his son – who declined to give police a statement – described his father as a "fat piece of s***", a "pathetic loser and a joke". "You are the most ghastly man I have ever known," said Peter, then 18. "Does it give you pleasure that you have lost most of your friends?"

John Kelsey-Fry, QC, counsel for Huhne, had been arguing in pre-trial hearings that there was no chance of a fair trial and no case to answer, because the speeding forms had been routinely destroyed and pre-trial publicity had been extensive.

"There's simply no case against Mr Huhne. Indeed in this case there's no evidence of there having been any crime at all, let alone one as to his participation," he said.

His legal team pushed for closer scrutiny of the role of police and prosecutors in the case and a second team, from Kent, was brought in to examine the case, but no wrongdoing was found.

The trial judge, Mr Justice Sweeney, ruled against Huhne's attempt to have the case thrown out last week. Even then, Huhne pleaded not guilty and was expected to stand trial – until his final, short appearance yesterday, when he finally, publicly, admitted his guilt.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones