Editorial: Sorry, Vicky Pryce, your unsuccessful plea proves marital coercion is no defence

This sad case stands as a warning, but the lessons are mainly for private reflection

Share

Given the great misery already suffered by the family of Vicky Pryce, we are reluctant to comment on the guilty verdict handed down by jurors yesterday. The case stands as a terrible warning against, first, the compromises sought by ambition and, second, the escalation of revenge. It was a tragic morality tale of two people, once close, tearing each other apart – and the lessons are mostly for private reflection.

Yet there were also questions of public policy at stake. Specifically, the defence of marital coercion – which Ms Pryce unsuccessfully pleaded – should have no place in the British legal system. It dates from 1925 and is one of those laws that should have been cleared out long ago, in one of the occasional drives to take rules reflecting old inequalities off the statute book.

First, marital coercion is a defence not available to men. Second, it is simultaneously both patronising to women, and – if successful – a licence to evade personal responsibility. Prosecuting counsel Andrew Edis should not have been reduced to arguing that Ms Pryce was a “woman who had spent her life making important choices”, as if such a defence might be justified were the defendant not an economist who was regularly on television. Marital coercion is, rightly, rarely used. The Pryce trial makes it clear it is time to scrap it altogether.

Then there is the question of the widespread practice of passing off penalty points for traffic offences. It is often suggested that speeding offences are victimless crimes, that sharing points is something that “everyone does” and that speed cameras are simply a device to raise revenue. Wrong on every count. Indeed, death on the road is directly correlated with the speed at which the car is travelling. It is up to the Government to do more to make enforcement certain.

Even if the original crime were trivial – which we do not accept – any attempt to pervert the course of justice must be treated severely. Heart-rending though the personal cost of the Pryce case has been, justice has been done.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nigel Farage has urged supporters to buy Mike Read's Ukip Calypso song and push it up to the No 1 spot  

Mike Read’s Ukip calypso is mesmerisingly atrocious — but it's not racist

Matthew Norman
Shirley Shackleton, wife of late journalist Gregory Shackleton, sits next to the grave of the 'Balibo Five' in Jakarta, in 2010  

Letter from Asia: The battle for the truth behind five journalists’ deaths in Indonesia

Andrew Buncombe
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why