2:25pm Tuesday 5th February 2013
Chris Huhne's ex-wife Vicky Pryce revealed the fact she had taken his speeding points in a bid to get revenge after he left her for another woman, a court heard today.
Former energy secretary Huhne was clocked speeding in March 2003 and persuaded his then wife Pryce to take his points so he could avoid losing his licence.
Huhne and Pryce were both charged last year with perverting the course of justice over the offence and were due to stand trial together.
But the former Cabinet minister dramatically changed his plea yesterday, admitting the offence and resigning as an MP.
His ex-wife still denies the charge, saying she was coerced into taking the points and is standing trial alone.
Opening the case at Southwark Crown Court today, prosecutor Andrew Edis QC said the points-swapping only came to light in 2010/2011 when Pryce told several newspapers in a bid to ruin her former husband's career.
Mr Edis told the jury of eight women and four men: ''It became public because Ms Pryce told a newspaper, actually more than one.
''And she told the newspapers because by then, 2010/11, she had learned that Mr Huhne had been having an affair with somebody else and he, Mr Huhne, had told her, in a way which you may learn something about, that he did not want to be with Ms Pryce any more, it was over.''
He said the ending of a long marriage in circumstances like that would undoubtedly be ''a cause of immense distress to any wife, or husband come to that''.
''And there is no doubt at all that Ms Pryce was distressed.
''But there is also no doubt at all that she was not only distressed but extremely angry and she wanted some revenge.
''And her revenge was in the end to pass the story about the 2003 crime to the newspapers so that it would be published in the end, that it would destroy her husband's career.''
The jury was told of an email exchange dating from March 1 2011 between Pryce and Sunday Times journalist Isabel Oakeshott in which they discussed how to publicise the points affair.
Ms Oakeshott suggested they do a number of pieces including news features and a story at the front of the paper, writing: ''This is what I strongly recommend you do, given your dual objectives of bringing Chris down... without seriously damaging your own reputation in the process.''
In a later email she warned Pryce of the danger of facing criminal proceedings if she did reveal that she took his penalty points, and that the newspaper was discussing the issue.
Pryce wrote: ''I would need some reassurance that it would bring Chris down.''
Later she added: ''I have no doubt, as I really want to nail him. More than ever actually, and I would love to do it soon.''
Ms Oakeshott later replied: ''The bottom line is that this story will bring Chris down if you are prepared to go on the record, with the minor risk this carries.
''I think you can make yourself out to be very much the honourable one, saying it has very much been on your conscience ever since, saying you knew it was wrong but you were bullied into it.''
Mr Edis said the jury will hear four phone calls between Pryce and Huhne that were recorded with the help of the Sunday Times in a ''set up'' to get him to admit the points swapping and prove the story.
''Isabel Oakeshott is trying to get the story to stand up so it can go in the newspaper so nobody gets sued for libel or whatever,'' he said.
The plan was that Pryce would phone her ex-husband, get him to admit the allegation, and it would all be recorded as evidence.
''It is, in fact, a set up,'' Mr Edis told the court.
''Mr Huhne did not fall for it.
''He denied repeatedly the suggestion that he had asked her to take any points and said that it was all ridiculous.
''We know from what happened yesterday that when he was denying it he was doing that for the benefit, not of the truth, but for whoever might be listening to the telephone call.''
He said Huhne was obviously aware of what was going on, and was being ''manipulative'' but said Pryce was also being manipulative by trying to get him to confess.
''You might come to the conclusion that these telephone calls are two manipulative people trying unsuccessfully to manipulate each other.''
He said the calls would show Pryce was ''angry, persistent'' and ''assertive'', saying: ''And of course the situation is wholly different from what it was in 2003.
''We know that the marriage is at an end, it's come to an end in horrible circumstances, and the ties of loyalty no longer exist.''
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