March 11 (Bloomberg) -- Former U.K. Energy Secretary Chris Huhne was sentenced to 8 months in jail for lying about who was driving his car when it was caught on camera speeding in 2003.
Judge Nigel Sweeney, handing down the sentence at Southwark Crown Court today, also gave Huhne’s ex-wife Vicky Pryce, who claimed she was behind the wheel, an 8-month term. Sweeney called Huhne the “more culpable of the two,” while giving him a month reduction of his sentence for pleading guilty on what would have been his first day of his trial.
Pryce was found guilty by a jury of perverting the course of justice for taking Huhne’s penalty points when they were married so he could avoid losing his license. After Huhne left her for an aide, Pryce sought revenge by telling the story to the Sunday Times. After pleading guilty last month, Huhne resigned from the House of Commons. The Liberal Democrat quit his post in Prime Minister David Cameron’s cabinet after being charged in February 2012, initially claiming he was innocent.
“Any element of tragedy is entirely your own fault,” the judge told Huhne and Pryce when sentencing them, calling their actions “deliberate and done to gain joint advantage.” Both will serve about half their sentences, the judge said.
Pryce, 60, and Huhne, 58, were charged last year. Huhne, the first serving British Cabinet minister to be charged with a serious criminal offense in modern times, changed his plea to guilty after a failed bid to dismiss the case, triggering a March 1 special election in his southern England constituency, which his Liberal Democrat party retained.
Huhne left Pryce following the exposure of his affair in 2010. Prosecutors learned of the speeding incident from the media coverage and charged both of them in February 2012.
The judge said both Huhne and Pryce had “fallen from a significant height” and were finally “brought to justice.”
Huhne’s lawyer, John Kelsey-Fry, said the politician apologizes for his actions and asked the judge to give him “the shortest possible sentence” because he’d already lost his job and reputation.
“By pleading guilty he resigned himself to a prison sentence,” Kelsey-Fry said.
Pryce was convicted March 7 following a retrial after the original jury in the case failed to reach a verdict. Pryce, who had worked for FTI Consulting Inc., quit her job last week after the conviction, her lawyer, Julian Knowles, said today. Knowles had argued that Pryce shouldn’t get any jail time.
The break-up of her marriage and the trial has been “utterly distressing, painful and humiliating for her,” and there was “a degree of pressure applied to her that contributed to her committing that offense,” Knowles said.
The judge said that Pryce was “motivated by an implacable desire for revenge.” He said he didn’t accept that it took much coercion on Huhne’s part to convince Pryce to take the points.
“You were readily persuaded and chose to go along with it to your mutual benefit,” he said.
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