‘Judge lied in bid to bring down Chris Huhne’

Chris Huhne was jailed after lying about a speeding offence. Picture: Getty
Chris Huhne was jailed after lying about a speeding offence. Picture: Getty
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A barrister and part-time judge lied to police about her role in exposing Chris Huhne’s speeding points scandal, then tried to cover up her dishonesty using altered and fake documents, a court has heard.

Constance Briscoe was “intent” on bringing about the downfall of the disgraced Cabinet minister and did not baulk at lying to police in the process, Southwark Crown Court heard.

The barrister is accused of trying to pervert the course of justice by lying to police about how she helped the former energy secretary’s ex-wife, Vicky Pryce, reveal his wrongdoing to the press. She is also accused of altering a witness statement, then also submitting fake evidence to her solicitors and the court to cover up her own dishonesty.

The 56-year-old, who has been suspended since her arrest in October 2012, denies three counts of intending to pervert the course of public justice.

The first alleges that, between 16 May, 2011, and 6 October, 2012, she provided police with two inaccurate statements, and the second that on 6 October, 2012, she produced an altered copy of a statement, but claimed it was the correct version.

A third charge alleges that between 5 October, 2012, and 8 October, 2013, the barrister got an expert to say the alteration in her statement was due to a printer malfunction, but deliberately handed him the wrong document to look at so she could get evidence in her favour.

Opening the case, prosecutor Bobbie Cheema QC said Briscoe had helped economist Pryce, who was a friend and neighbour, reveal information about the points-swapping scandal to newspapers after she and Huhne separated in 2010.

The incident, described yesterday as a “tiny snowball of deception” that caused a “mighty avalanche”, led to Huhne’s resignation as a Cabinet minister and the prosecution and jail sentences for both him and his ex-wife.

In a witness statement to police after the story was published in May 2011, Briscoe said she had known the couple since she moved into their street in Clapham, London.

She said: “I became what I would term as an associate of theirs,” adding: “I found Chris to be more easygoing than [Vicky], she is more hot tempered, what I would call a Greek temper. However, I had never had a problem with either of them. I held both of them in the same regard.”

She described Pryce confiding in her in May 2003 about Huhne nominating her as the driver of his car when he was caught speeding, and said she told the economist her then-husband should “come clean”.

In a second statement to police, Briscoe denied having any contact with journalists or newspapers about the story, and maintained she was not a close friend of Pryce’s but had simply advised her on her divorce.

But e-mails obtained by court order during the Huhne-Pryce trial showed she had advised Pryce about a contract with the Sunday Times, and was also involved in speaking to the Mail on Sunday about the story.

Once her involvement was revealed, Briscoe was dropped as a witness in Huhne and Pryce’s trial and arrested last October.

The case, at Southwark Crown Court, continues.