The ex-wife of disgraced politician Chris Huhne said today that she wished she could have turned the clock back after her account of the penalty points saga became headline news.
Vicky Pryce said that she was “shocked and horrified” when she saw the story in the Sunday Times about the former Energy Secretary passing her his speeding points even though she had been the source of the story which first appeared in May 2011.
"I was a bit shocked and horrified and of course started worrying very significantly about the whole process that led to this article,” she told a jury at Southwark Crown Court. "So in many ways I just wanted to turn the clock back and not have anything to do with it."
Ms Pryce, 60, said that she had not expected the article to have appeared in that form after months of telephone calls, emails and lunch meetings with the political editor of the newspaper, Isabel Oakeshott. She added: "I was quite shocked about the way that the information had come out and I was beginning to feel that actually I had been perhaps manipulated in a way and that things had probably been pushed too far."
Andrew Edis, QC, for the prosecution said: “It was a six-month press campaign designed to ruin him. You had been striking from behind a safe wall so you couldn’t be harmed, that’s true isn’t it?”
Ms Pryce replied: “That’s not true.”
Huhne on Monday pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice signalling the end of his political career – a year after he stepped down from the Cabinet to fight the charges. His former wife accepts she took the points but said she was bullied into signing the form that admitted that she was the driver after her husband called her down to the hallway where he stood with a pen in his hand.
Under cross-examination, Ms Pryce accepted that she had not told police in six interviews over two days about the incident with her husband in the hallway at their Clapham home.
Andrew Edis, QC, counsel for the prosecution, said that she had only raised the issue at the trial so she could claim the defence of “marital coercion”. The defence requires the husband to be present at the time of the crime, he said.
Ms Pryce said: “In fact, it’s probably one of my strongest memories of this whole sad affair, him standing at the hallway table, lots of papers around and the form and being made to sign. I’m afraid it’s absolutely true.”
The court hear that Sir John Scarlett, the former head of MI6, had sent her a letter to her defence team saying that she was a person of integrity. “In our personal contact, I have found her to be exceptionally well informed and of good judgement. I regard her as a person of clear integrity in whom I have confidence,” according to his letter read out to the court.
Ms Pryce, who denies perverting the course of justice, insisted that her family came first despite the firestorm that followed the initial publication of the story but said that she felt “quite ashamed and upset” after the story emerged.
"2010 was a very difficult circumstance when the family had really been torn apart and where the person they were relying on, who was me, was actually very fragile.
"I am not proud of what happened. Now of course I would never ever have gone down that road.”
The case continues.