Former Eastleigh MP Chris Huhne’s ex-wife Vicky Pryce was not “superwoman”, but a “real woman with real pressures” who was coerced into taking his speeding points, her lawyer has told a court.
Julian Knowles QC said Pryce was bullied by her “ruthlessly ambitious” ex-husband when she had a “second’s lapse” and signed a form agreeing to take his points in 2003.
Pryce, 60, denies perverting the court of justice and is relying on a defence of marital coercion.
On Tuesday, she was accused by prosecutor Andrew Edis QC of telling “barefaced lies” to the jury during her trial at Southwark Crown Court. But on Wednesday, Mr Knowles said she was a “woman of integrity” with the same emotions and frailties as anyone else, not “bloodless” and “emotionless”.
“She is not superwoman, they exist only in comic books, she was a real woman with real pressures,” he said. “A job, five children, yes there was money around, sure, but money doesn’t solve everything.”
He said Huhne had bullied her, going on and on for her to take the points.
“Everyone has a breaking point, everyone runs out of gas, everyone makes mistakes, has moments of weakness, can be worn down. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you are from, what you do, how many languages you speak.
“Every single one of us, given the right combination of circumstances, feel they have no option but to do something they don’t want to do even though they know it’s not the right thing to do.
“To portray Vicky Pryce as some bloodless, emotionless, career woman who never put a foot wrong, who never did things that she didn’t want to do, is just so far wide of the mark that it ought to be dismissed out of hand.”
Giving the jury legal directions ahead of his summing-up, Mr Justice Sweeney told them there was no burden on Pryce to prove her innocence, but it was for the prosecution to prove her guilty. He told the jury of eight women and four men: “What is required of you is a cool, calm, careful and dispassionate consideration of the evidence, together with the courage to return a true verdict, whatever the consequences may be.”
Mr Knowles also told the court that Pryce was not born with “silver spoons in her mouth”, and achieved everything she had “by the sweat of her brow”.
“No matter how people might look up to Ms Pryce for her achievements and for the financial benefits that she might or might not have achieved, she has had a hard and difficult life and has worked for everything that she has achieved.”
Mr Knowles accused Huhne of treating Pryce as inferior in court as he said the former MP had been described as “ferociously intelligent” and “controversial” in Westminster.
“People who regard others as their inferiors tend to expect their inferiors to do what they want them to do, and the fact that that was the dynamic in their marriage is of real and telling significance,” said Mr Knowles.
“How he treated her through the court of the marriage - intellectually intelligent he may have been, emotionally intelligent he certainly was not.
“Mr Huhne was a man who didn’t let anything stand in the way of his career.
“Ruthlessly ambitious, Mr Huhne wanted power, he wanted to be an MP, he wanted to be not just an MP, he wanted to be a leading MP.”
Pryce was worn down by her then husband’s “badgering”, he said, telling jurors: “He had been on at her and on at her and on at her.
“Bullies, domineers, don’t just use their fists, they don’t have to.
“Clever people like Mr Huhne have other ways of controlling and domineering, and it was the other ways that he utilised.
“This combination of pressures forced her into a second’s lapse when she scribbled her name on the form that he had already completed for her.
“There is quite simply no way Vicky Pryce, a woman of integrity, would willingly have sent that form for the sake of convenience in the way that is being suggested to you.”
The trial continues.