Vicky Pryce was today accused of cooking up a story with a barrister friend to protect her from prosecution by saying she had been bullied into accepting speeding points by her ex-husband Chris Huhne, the disgraced MP.
The court was told that Ms Pryce, 60, took legal advice and requested “added legal protection” before revealing the point-swapping crime to the media in an act of revenge after Huhne ended their 26-year marriage.
Emails between Pryce and the political editor of the Sunday Times revealed she was taking advice from Constance Briscoe – a part-time judge who was also a neighbour – while a contract was drawn up before she went public with the claims. In one email, Ms Pryce said she was considering changing the wording because of fears of repercussions against her, the court heard.
“The point re the “pressurised” is to give me added legal protection,” she wrote to journalist Isabel Oakeshott two days before the story first ran in the newspaper. She sent another email a day later and said Ms Briscoe was “relaxed” about the contract and it did not need major changes, Southwark Crown Court was told. “You and her [Ms Briscoe] have cooked up a dishonest defence for you, that’s right?” said prosecutor Andrew Edis, QC. “No, it’s not right,” she said.
The court earlier heard Ms Briscoe – a best-selling writer – was arrested and is under police investigation for allegedly lying in a statement about her links with the media. She was also dropped as a witness in the case.
Ms Pryce accepts she took the points for her ex-husband after Huhne was caught by a speeding camera in March 2003 and faced a driving ban, but denies perverting the course of justice. She claims she was bullied by Huhne into taking the points and is claiming the defence of “marital coercion”. Ms Pryce, an economist, has told the court she felt she had no choice but to sign police forms nominating her as the driver after she was called to the hallway of their London home by Huhne who stood with a pen in his hand and demanded she signed.
“You never told anybody at all when you were giving your story to people about the incident in the hallway with the pen, did you?” Mr Edis asked. Ms Pryce said she had not told anyone as it was “embarrassing” and not vital to the story. “In my mind, it meant if you are the victim of doing something you don’t want to do under pressure, then you haven’t necessarily committed a crime.”
The court heard Ms Pryce did not comment in police interviews. Mr Edis said: “If you are telling the truth now the only sensible course was to tell the police then – you didn’t and that’s because you are not telling the truth now.” She said: “That’s not the case, I took advice from my lawyers.”
Huhne last month pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice and resigned as MP for Eastleigh. He will be sentenced later. The case continues.