DISGRACED ex-MP Chris Huhne and his former wife Vicky Pryce have spent their first night in prison, after being jailed for perverting the course of justice.
Huhne, the former energy secretary, and his economist ex-wife were each sentenced to eight months in prison.
Mr Justice Sweeney said Huhne had lied “again and again” over the swapping of speeding points a decade ago and told Pryce she had a “controlling, manipulative and devious side”.
“No doubt you thought that you would get away with it. You did get away with it, for some eight years.” he told the couple, adding that they had taken the decision to aid Huhne’s reputation and save Pryce inconvenience.
Huhne, 58, pleaded guilty to the offence on the first day of his trial last month, then quit as a Liberal Democrat MP. Pryce, 60, was convicted after a retrial at Southwark Crown Court in London last week.
Huhne would have been given a longer sentence but received a 10 per cent per cent reduction for pleading guilty.
Huhne, wearing a dark suit and tie, with an overnight bag placed in the corner, remained motionless as he became the first former Cabinet minister since Jonathan Aitken to be sent to prison.
Pryce, who wore a black jacket over a silver-grey top, also showed no emotion as she was sent to prison in front of a packed courtroom, which included Huhne’s partner, Carina Trimingham, and his father.
Mr Justice Sweeney told Huhne and Pryce: “You have fallen from a great height, albeit that that is only modest mitigation given that it is a height that you would never have achieved if you had not hidden your commission of such a serious offence in the first place.”
Before being sentenced, Huhne said he would accept responsibility. He went on: “I am sorry. I want to say that to family, to friends, to constituents and to colleagues, and more broadly to everybody who cares passionately about the causes I care about, including saving the planet for our children and our grandchildren.”
Asked how he had embarked on a course of lies for so long, he said: “It is just too easy to rationalise, at the beginning. You think this is just a ridiculously small misjudgment to destroy your career, and you just hope that something will turn up to stop the consequences, and it does not.
“I have to accept responsibility, and I should not have asked my ex-wife to take my speeding points, and I should not have lied on an official form, and I should not have tried to evade the consequences.
“I want, and have, to say sorry for not owning up when the story first came out. I should have owned up and got on with doing something else with my career. Lawmakers can be many things, but they cannot be lawbreakers.”
Prosecutor Andrew Edis, QC, earlier said some aspects of Huhne’s defence could be described as “scandalous”, and he suggested he deserved a prison sentence of up to six months.
When interviewed by police, Huhne had exhibited “highly selective amnesia”, he added.
Julian Knowles, QC, representing Pryce, had urged the judge to give her a suspended sentence because of special factors including her age, her government service, her charity work and the pressure she had been under.
John Kelsey-Fry, QC, for Huhne, said his client had already suffered “the direst consequences” and urged the judge to give him the shortest sentence possible.
The Crown Prosecution Service has said it plans to recoup costs from his “sustained challenges” against the prosecution. The Huhne case cost about £79,000 and Pryce’s prosecution £38,000, the court heard yesterday.
The offence dates back to 2003 when Pryce took speeding points for her then husband.
She tried to claim Huhne forced her into taking the points, using a rare defence of marital coercion, but she was convicted last week after a retrial.
The high-profile case exposed more details about the couple’s break-up in June 2010, when Huhne left her for bisexual PR adviser Ms Trimingham.
The trial also raised questions about how much senior Lib Dems knew about the points-swapping story before it appeared in the press in May 2011. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Business Secretary Vince Cable, along with their respective wives, Miriam and Rachel, were forced to deny suggestions in e-mails from Pryce to Sunday Times political editor Isabel Oakeshott that they knew about the scandal before it became public.
Mr Cable yesterday repeated his denials that he had known anything beforehand. He went on: “The whole story is unbelievably sad – two very talented people who have done themselves great damage and their family is wrecked. That’s the real tragedy of all this.”
Huhne’s downfall was described by Mr Clegg as a “personal tragedy”. He said he hoped Huhne and Pryce would be given “time and space to rebuild their lives” once they have completed their sentences.
Prime Minister David Cameron said of the case: “It’s a reminder that no-one, however high and mighty, is out of the reach of the justice system.”