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
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
The veteran poverty campaigner Sir Bob Geldof issues a stark challenge to emerging economies at the Melbourne HIV/Aids conference
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and John Malkovich talk Penguins of Madagascar at Comic-Con
comic-con 2014Cumberbatch fans banned from asking about Sherlock at Comic-Con
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
filmGuardians Of The Galaxy should have taken itself a bit more seriously, writes Geoffrey Macnab
Sir Chris Hoy won six Olympic golds - in which four events?
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Lars Ulrich of Metallica performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform