Chris Huhne's ex-wife let the former energy secretary stand as an MP for Eastleigh despite knowing that he was a criminal, a court heard today.
Vicky Pryce, an economist from Clapham, south London, is undergoing a retrial on charges that she perverted the course of justice by agreeing to take on her husband’s speeding points in early 2003. She admits deceiving the police by taking the points but is arguing that she was forced to do so by her husband and is using the defence of marital coercion.
At the time the Liberal Democrat politician was hoping to be selected as an MP for the constituency of Eastleigh and asked his wife to take the blame for his speeding because he would have lost his driving licence.
In cross examination on the witness stand this morning Pryce admitted that she knew what she doing was a potential criminal offence and that her husband was breaking the law by asking her to take on the penalty. Prosecutor Andrew Edis QC argued that the 60-year-old “inflicted a criminal on the voters of Eastleigh” to which Pryce replied: “On reflection yes.”
She added: “I didn't think it was the right thing for a politician to be doing. But given the circumstances in which it happened, I wasn't going to divorce him or going out to tell the world about this at that stage.”
This is the second time Pryce has had to take the witness stand in the past fortnight. Last week her first trial collapsed when the jury was dismissed after it failed to understand some of the most basic concepts of how a court works.
Much of the case centres around whether the successful economist really was forced to take on her husband's driving points, or whether she did so willingly. The court has heard how Pryce went to the press with the revelation that Mr Huhne had dodged the penalty points after their marriage broke down in the summer of 2010 following his affair with Carina Trimingham.
Earlier this month Mr Huhne pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice and is awaiting sentencing.
Pryce's decision to go to the press eventually led to her being outed as a co-conspirator of the crime. Explaining why she took such a risky course of action, she described her state of mind following the collapse of her marriage as deeply vulnerable.
“I was not thinking straight,” she said. “There were times when I was very vulnerable, in fact I was practically suicidal.”
She added: “The can of worms opened in a way I didn't expect.”
Pryce denied that she had caused “an utter catastrophe” for her children by going to the press.
Mr Edis said it was “a calculated course of conduct that was disastrous for your family”.
Ms Pryce replied: “No, what was disastrous was the break-up, the children have remained very close to me.”
When Mr Justice Sweeney asked her why she had not gone to the police rather than the press, she said: “On reflection I may well have been better off doing precisely that, but at the time I didn't really want either of us to be prosecuted.”
The trial was adjourned until Friday or Monday.