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Judge is arrested over Chris Huhne case

Vicky Pryce: retrial began this week. Picture: Oli Scarff/Getty

Vicky Pryce: retrial began this week. Picture: Oli Scarff/Getty

  • by ELLEN BRANAGH
 

A PART-TIME judge is being investigated for allegedly lying to police about her dealings with the press over Chris Huhne’s speeding points-swapping.

Constance Briscoe, a barrister, was arrested after it emerged she apparently lied when she told police she had not had any contact with the media about the story, jurors at Vicky Pryce’s retrial were told yesterday.

Huhne’s former wife Pryce, 60, denies perverting the course of justice by taking speeding points for him in 2003, claiming marital coercion.

The former energy secretary will be sentenced after her retrial, which started on Monday at Southwark Crown Court. A jury last week failed to reach a verdict in her original trial.

Jurors were told Pryce, helped by Briscoe, leaked the story to the Mail on Sunday to get revenge on Huhne for leaving her for his media adviser Carina Trimingham the previous year.

But Ms Briscoe has not been called as a witness in Pryce’s trial, jurors heard, as she is under investigation and could not be relied on as a “witness of truth”.

In a statement police said: “Ms Briscoe has provided statements to the police in this case but during the investigation it became apparent that she may have lied about her involvement with the press in that she denied having any contact with the Mail on Sunday or any other media organisation in relation to this story. For this reason, [she] has been arrested and is under investigation by the police.

“Ms Briscoe could therefore no longer be relied upon as a witness of truth.”

Prosecutor Andrew Edis QC said Ms Briscoe was a friend and neighbour of Pryce, and they got closer when Huhne left Pryce in 2010. He said they met freelance journalist Andrew Alderson, who was taking the story to the Mail on Sunday, in November 2010, telling him Huhne’s constituency aide Jo White had taken points for him. “Well of course that was a complete lie because the person who took points for Huhne when he had nine points was her (Pryce),” he said. E-mails revealed exchanges between Ms Briscoe, Mr Alderson, and MoS news editor David Dillon.

On 10 December, 2010, Mr Alderson asked Ms Briscoe: “Do we have lift-off – ie a statement to the MoS? If so, I suspect he will be an ex-minister by Sunday lunch-time…”

Five days later, he said: “Constance is fabulous (no dithering, no bull-s**t) – there will be three people around the table all willing this project to come good.”

On 30 December, 2010, Ms Briscoe explained to Mr Dillon that the “relevant person” had been “bullied and pressurised” into taking points for Huhne.

Pryce said a confidentiality agreement between her and the MoS was signed at Ms Briscoe’s chambers. But the story did not run, and the court heard Pryce went on to tell Sunday Times political editor Isabel Oakeshott about the points in March 2011. Ms Oakeshott helped her record phone calls with Huhne. The story ran on 8 May, 2011, and led to the arrest and prosecution of Huhne and Pryce.

In evidence yesterday, Pryce said she was forced by Huhne to take the points in a “fait accompli” so he could avoid losing his licence. The case continues.

 

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