May 20 2013 Latest news:
Thursday, February 14, 2013
The jury in the trial of Chris Huhne’s ex-wife, accused of taking his speeding points, has retired to consider its verdict.
Vicky Pryce is charged with perverting the course of justice by taking her disgraced ex-husband’s speeding points in 2003.
Jurors at Southwark Crown Court in London heard the economist denies the charge, claiming she was coerced by Huhne as he tried to avoid losing his licence.
The former energy secretary pleaded guilty to the offence last Monday, resigning as an MP, and now faces jail.
Concluding his summing up of the case, Mr Justice Sweeney told the jury of eight women and four men: “It is of course for the prosecution to prove that Ms Pryce’s will was not overborne in the sense that I have directed you.
“The prosecution say that you can be sure that her will was not overborne because either: one, the claim of coercion is invented, or two, she has lied about it, which she can only have done because it is false.
“Three, she has exaggerated what was really no more than persuasion by comparison between what she has said in the past and what she has said now, with now said to be an exaggeration.
“And fourthly, even on her own account in the witness box, the prosecution say, her will was not overborne, she simply made a choice for her own purposes and only got found out because she decided to use it as a weapon against Huhne.”
He said the prosecution said they had proved that marital coercion did not apply and so the correct verdict would be guilty.
He went on: “The defence say that is all completely wrong.
“You should accept Ms Pryce’s evidence about what happened as she has given it on oath before you, as being true.
“And that the result therefore should be that if you accept it is true, or even that it may be true, then the prosecution will have failed to make you sure either that Mr Huhne wasn’t there when she signed the form, or that her will was not overborne.
“And in that event the defence say obviously the proper verdict is one of not guilty.”
The charges date back to 2003 when Huhne’s BMW was clocked speeding on the way back from Stansted Airport. He was then an MEP and was travelling back from Strasbourg.
With nine points on his licence, he faced a driving ban and was worried it would affect his chances of being nominated as the Lib Dem candidate for the Eastleigh seat, which he went on to win in 2005.
Pryce, who had a clean licence at the time, claims her then husband forced her to take the points, saying if he lost his licence he risked not being nominated, which would be her fault.
She described him standing in their hallway “waving” a pen at her, presenting her with a “fait accompli”, leaving her no choice but to sign.
Huhne was banned later that year for a different offence, the court heard.
The points-swapping allegations became public in May 2011 when they were published in national newspapers.