VICKY Pryce, the ex-wife of disgraced former MP Chris Huhne, “cooked up” her defence, a court heard today.
Pryce, 60, is accused of perverting the course of justice by taking the driving penalty points for her then-husband in 2003, so that he could avoid losing his licence after already totting up nine points.
Her initial trial collapsed last month after the jury failed to reach a verdict.
After the couple split up, Pryce went to the press, initially to reveal only that someone in her family had taken the speeding points.
In a 2011 interview with the Sunday Times, she did not tell the political editor Isabel Oakeshott that Huhne stood over her with a pen and made her sign the declaration. Neither did she tell police when interviewed.
Her defence is that she was forced into taking the points by Huhne, with him aggressively bullying her into it and warning her “of the consequences” if she did not.
But Andrew Edis, QC, prosecuting at London’s Southwark Crown Court, told her: “The reason you did not tell her is that you have made that up since part of a defence of marital coercion is a husband has to be there when the offence is committed.
“So that is why you have cooked up that for the first time after being prosecuted and never before.”
Pryce, a leading economist, replied: “If there is one thing that I remember from this whole sorry affair it is him standing over me with the pen in his hand.”
Pryce told the five women and seven men of the jury she did not tell the police on advice from her lawyer.
Mr Edis said: “If you are telling the truth now the only sensible course was to tell the police then – you didn’t and that is because you are not telling the truth now.”
“That’s not the case, I took advice from my lawyers,” said the defendant.
Huhne previously pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice and has been warned he could face jail.
Mr Edis said Pryce had something to gain by taking her then husband’s points because it would help him win the Eastleigh constituency which he was fighting for the Liberal Democrats.
Pryce took the points as “a quick fix to an inconvenient problem”, the barrister said.
“Lying comes easy,” said Mr Edis, which Pryce, of Clapham, south London, denied.
Pryce recorded phone conversations with Huhne in which she tried to get him to admit what had happened. In court, she said she was “very, very ashamed of having done those things”.
She said she found making the calls “very, very difficult and terribly embarrassing”.
“I am not proud of those things or anything to do with the newspapers. But over that period I felt I had lost it, really.”
She added she was stressed following the breakdown of their marriage in June 2010 as Huhne left for PR adviser Carina Trimingham, and she “wasn’t thinking straight”.
Pryce said Huhne, a former cabinet minister, ordered her to take the penalty points as “it was clear the consequences for me would be significant if I didn’t sign”. She said she believed he was implying he would divorce her although he did not say that at the time in 2003.
Character witness Stephanie Maltman told the court she had known Pryce for 37 years.
She described her as “vulnerable” after the breakdown of an earlier marriage.
She said they used to have dinner parties where Huhne – whom she described as “arrogant” – “would diminish Vicky”.
The trial continues..