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Judge Briscoe jailed for lying over Huhne scandal

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DISGRACED barrister and part-time judge Constance Briscoe has been jailed for 16 months after being found guilty of lying to police investigating the Chris Huhne speeding points scandal.

She was convicted of three counts of trying to pervert the course of justice over the investigation into how disgraced cabinet minister Huhne passed speeding points to his then-wife Vicky Pryce a decade ago.

Briscoe, who was one of the first black women to sit as a judge in the UK, was jailed for twice the amount of time handed to Huhne and Pryce and also faces being barred from the judiciary.

Jailing her, Mr Justice Baker said: “Constance Briscoe, you are the third individual to have been convicted of criminal offences arising out of a saga whose origin goes back to 2003, when both Chris Huhne and Vicky Pryce lied about who had driven a speeding motor vehicle, and extends to you in 2011, when you sought to hide your true motive and role in the exposure of that story.

“You then compounded your position by deliberately fabricating evidence when you thought that you might be exposed. If there is a common thread between you all, then, from the insights I have had into the character of the each of you during this case, I regret that it is one of arrogance by educated individuals who considered that respect for the law was for others.

“I am only too conscious that your convictions mark a personal tragedy for both you and your children. You are an individual who unsurprisingly has been something of a role model to others.

“Although blessed with intelligence, you did not have every advantage in life. However you worked hard at school and were the first person in your family to go to university.

“Having gained a degree in law, you joined the Bar and over the years established a successful criminal practice, and had the privilege of being appointed a Crown Court Recorder. You have done all of this whilst raising your two much loved children.”

The judge said Briscoe had been “motivated, as was Vicky Pryce, by a joint desire to ensure the downfall of Chris Huhne.

He went on: “I am sure that you realise only too well that such conduct strikes at the heart of our much cherished system of criminal justice, which is integral and invaluable to the good order of society.”

Mr Justice Baker said he had taken account of her previous good character and the “devastating effect” of the conviction on her career.

Briscoe, 56, of Clapham, south London, was sentence to four, five and seven months for the three counts, totalling 16 months in jail.

Standing in the the dock, she replied: “I’m grateful, my lord.”

After yesterday’s verdict, Mr Huhne, who was forced to resign over the speeding points scandal, released a statement in which he described Briscoe as a “compulsive and self-publicising fantasist”.

He declared: “British justice is likely to be a lot fairer with Briscoe behind bars.”

Investigating officer Detective Inspector John McDermott, of Kent Police, said the verdict showed no-one was “above the law”.

And the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office (JCIO) announced it would be preparing a report on whether Briscoe, who was already suspended, should be removed from the judiciary.

Briscoe stood trial for a second time after a jury at Southwark Crown Court failed to reach verdicts.

The Old Bailey trial heard that Briscoe helped economist Ms Pryce, who was a friend and also her neighbour, to reveal information about Mr Huhne’s points-swapping to newspapers after the couple split in 2010.

Huhne pleaded guilty in February last year, while Pryce was convicted after a trial.

When the allegations emerged in 2011, Briscoe made a witness statement to police on May 31 that year claiming Ms Pryce confided in her in 2003 after she found out that Mr Huhne had asked her to take his speeding points, portraying herself as an “independent and objective” witness.

In a second statement on August 16 2012 she denied having any contact with journalists or newspapers about the story but emails obtained by court order ahead of the Huhne-Pryce trial showed that Briscoe had spoken to journalists.

Once her involvement was revealed, Briscoe was dropped as a witness in Huhne and Pryce’s trial and she was arrested in October 2012.

The jury heard that Briscoe was intent on bringing about Mr Huhne’s downfall and knew how to manipulate the criminal justice system to her advantage.

It was claimed that she misled police in her witness statements. The court heard she deliberately gave police an altered copy of one of the statements into which she had inserted an extra “I” to change the meaning to suggest she had refused to speak to journalists about the story - only for emails handed over by newspapers to prove she had been in touch with reporters.

She then deliberately handed a different copy of the altered statement to an expert so he would find that the alteration was due to a printer malfunction.

The defendant denied deliberately misleading police, saying it was always clear she had spoken to journalists by the fact her name was used in newspaper stories about the speeding points scandal.

However, the Old Bailey jury took just five hours to find her guilty on all three counts of intending to pervert the course of justice.

 
 
 

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