THE jurors at the retrial of Chris Huhne’s ex-wife were today urged to ignore anything they knew about the case and to “wipe the slate clean”.
Vicky Pryce, 60, denies perverting the course of justice by taking speeding points for former cabinet minister Huhne in 2003.
Using the defence of marital coercion she claims her former husband forced her to take the points.
He previously pleaded guilty to the offence and has been warned he could face jail.
Last week a jury failed to reach a verdict in Pryce’s trial and today a new jury of seven men and five women were told by Mr Justice Sweeney: “Both sides, prosecution and defence, have asked me to deal with the continuing publicity as to the first trial in this case which ended last week in which the jury was unable to reach a verdict.
“That happens, sometimes. It is of no relevance whatsoever in this trial at all.
“In this trial the slate, as it were, is wiped clean, and you judge the case afresh based only on the evidence which unfolds before you during the course of the trial.
“The other jury’s disagreement is entirely irrelevant in this case.”
Prosecutor Andrew Edis told them: “It would be foolish for anyone to pretend that you are all entirely ignorant about the circumstances of this case. There is no such pretence.
“What his Lord has directed you and what we also urge you to do is to pay no heed at all to anything that you know about it up until now.
“It starts now, and what matters is what happens from now on.”
The court heard that Huhne’s BMW was clocked speeding at 11.23pm on March 12, 2003 as he returned from Stansted airport to London.
He said Huhne nominated his then-wife to take the points so he could avoid losing his licence and the pair had “cheated the system”.
Mr Edis said Pryce, of Crescent Grove, Clapham, south London, claimed a defence of marital coercion, requiring that her husband was present at the time and applied such pressure that she had no real choice.
He said: “She is not married to a lorry driver with five kids who would go hungry if he lost his job or anything of that kind.
“She was not threatened with violence or indeed threatened at all.”
He went on: “In 2002/3 Ms Pryce was a woman who had spent her life making important choices both in her own case and even for other people too because she was a very influential person who had had a glittering career as an economist in banking.”
She became chief economic adviser to the Department for Trade and Industry (DTI) in 2002, earning a six-figure sum - the first woman to be appointed to the post, he said.
“Women such as her have proudly led the struggle for equality with men over decades.
“They have won an equal right to choose what they do and here she is saying that she was unable to choose whether to commit a crime or not because a man, whether her husband or not, was telling her what she had to do.”
Mr Edis said Huhne left Pryce during half-time of a football match in June 2010, confessing to an affair before he was outed by a newspaper, then drafted a press statement and went to the gym.
He said it undoubtedly left her distressed: “But being the person that she is, a strong-minded, strong-willed person, it also caused her great anger and in the end led her to want to get revenge.
“And that is why actually we are all here, that’s why she is here, because she wanted to get revenge.”
He said it was after the Liberal Democrat party conference in September 2010, when press coverage of her attendance “tipped her over the edge”, that Pryce tried to reveal the story.
She contacted freelance journalist Andrew Alderson in November 2010, discussing a story - later found to be untrue - about a constituency aide taking points.
But the story was not published, despite efforts, and Pryce gave the story to Sunday Times political editor Isabel Oakeshott, Mr Edis said, whom she had met at the Lib Dem conference in September 2010.
Pryce confessed during a lunch on March 1 and email exchanges afterwards discussed how they could publish the story, with Ms Oakeshott suggesting the economist could inflict “maximum and perhaps fatal damage” on Huhne.
Pryce told the journalist: “I have no doubt as I definitely want to nail him, more than ever actually.”
Mr Edis told the jury: “She took the minor risk that Isabel Oakeshott had warned her about.
“She lit the blue touchpaper and she did that because she wanted to nail Mr Huhne.”
The court heard they also recorded conversations with Huhne in a bid to get “incontrovertible evidence”.
Mr Edis said: “There is no doubt that the end of her marriage was distressing, very upsetting, perhaps even heartbreaking.”
But he said she had “hatched quite a sophisticated plot to destroy his career whilst at the same time in quite a sophisticated way trying to save hers”.
He told the court that the points-swapping came about so busy Pryce would not be put to any inconvenience, and so Huhne could carry on with his career, and nobody would have found out if the economist’s “desire of vengeance had not overcome her better judgment”.