DCSIMG

Chris Huhne’s ex-wife Vicky Pryce taped phone calls

Vicky Pryce. Picture: PA

Vicky Pryce. Picture: PA

  • by ELLEN BRANAGH
 

CHRIS Huhne’s ex-wife, Vicky Pryce, told the press she took his speeding points in an attempt to “nail him” in revenge for him leaving her for another woman, a court has heard.

• She has already pleaded not guilty to perverting the course of justice

Huhne, former Liberal Democrat energy secretary, was clocked speeding in March 2003 and persuaded his then wife, Pryce, to take his points so he could avoid losing his licence.

The news later emerged in national newspapers, sparking a lengthy investigation. Until Monday, Huhne denied persuading his ex-wife to take the points.

Pryce is standing trial accused of perverting the course of justice after Huhne dramatically changed his plea to guilty yesterday, ending his politicalcareer.

Pryce, 60, denies perverting the course of justice, but has adopted a defence of maritalcoercion, saying Huhne persuaded her to take the points.

Prosecutor Andrew Edis QC told the jury at Southwark Crown Court in London yesterday that the points-swapping came to light in 2010-11, when Pryce told several newspapers in an attempt to ruin her former husband’s career after he lefther for his former press adviser, Carina Trimingham.

The jury was read e-mails between Pryce and Sunday Times political editor Isabel Oakeshott – who is due to appear as a pro­secution witness tomorrow – in which they discussed how the story could be published and end Huhne’s career.

They also heard four calls Pryce made to Huhne around April 2011, which were recorded with Ms Oakeshott’s help in an unsuccessful effort to get some proof for the story.

Mr Edis told the jury of eight women and four men they would have to decide if Pryce, an economist and top civil servant, was “weak-­minded” and forced by Huhne into accepting the points, or was a “strong-minded and manipulative” woman acting of her own free will.

“Focus not on whether she was persuaded, but whether she was in a situation where she had a choice,” he said. “Her revenge in the end was to pass the story of the 2003 points to the newspaper, so they would publish it and destroy his political career.

“It was Pryce’s plan that she would get her revenge by putting an end to all that [his career]. She would publish what she and he had done together without complaint in 2003, so she would get her revenge for the undoubtedly very bad way he had treated her.”

Eventually, Mr Edis said, her plan worked.

Pryce had earlier also spoken to the Mail on Sunday about the scandal, but they had decided not to publish it, the court heard.

In the e-mail exchange from 1 March, 2011, Ms Oakeshott suggested a number of pieces run in the Sunday Times, including news features and a story at the front of the paper, writing: “This is what I strongly recommend you do, given your dual objectives of bringing Chris down, if you can, without seriously damaging your own reputation in the process.”

In a later e-mail, she warned Pryce of the danger of facing criminal proceedings if she did reveal that she took his penalty points, and that the newspaper was discussing the issue.

Pryce wrote: “I would need some reassurance that it would bring Chris down.”

Later, Pryce added: “I have no doubt, as I really want to nail him. More than ever actually, and I would love to do it soon.”

Ms Oakeshott replied: “The bottom line is that this story will bring Chris down if you are prepared to go on the record, with the minor risk this carries.

“I think you can make yourself out to be very much the honourable one, saying it has very much been on your conscience ever since, saying you knew it was wrong but you were bullied into it.”

During four calls played to the jury, Pryce tried to get Huhne to admit she had taken the points in 2003. She repeatedly asked him to confirm she took his points, but her ex-­husband denied it.

He told her: “Can I suggest if you want to stop journalists door-stepping you, you stop telling ridiculous stories?”

In a later call, he told her not to speak to Ms Oakeshott, saying: “She can only bring you down with something. There is noupside to talking to her from your point of view. There is only a potential downside.”

During the calls, Pryce made several digs about Ms Trimingham, describing her as “your f**king man”.

She claimed Huhne’s “entire family” knew she had taken the points, but her ex accused her of “maliciously briefing the press” to ruin his political career.

The trial continues.

Extracts from the calls between Pryce and Huhne:

Pryce: “Why would I tell anyone about me taking your points? It’s not in my interests. Are you a moron?”

Huhne: “It is not in anyone’s interests that you should tell nonsense to the papers.”

Pryce: “We used to be husband and wife, I took your points for you and you know that full well.

“I am prepared to lie for you as I’ve done all along, but they are pressurising all the f**king time. I can’t even get through the front door, whether it’s to do with your f**king man [Ms Trimingham], or to do with your f**king points.

“So just tell me what the f**k to go outside and say to them.”

Pryce: “I have to be careful because the last thing I want to do is for it to come out and I have actually perjured myself, or whatever the f**k it is that you do.”

 

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