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Chris Huhne still a friend, says Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg
2:20pm Thursday 14th March 2013 in News
Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said today that he still regards jailed former colleague Chris Huhne as a "friend", but is not expecting to visit him in prison.
The Deputy Prime Minister revealed that he last spoke to the former energy secretary, who stepped down as a Lib Dem MP after pleading guilty to perverting the course of justice, during the by-election campaign for his old seat of Eastleigh in Hampshire.
Huhne was sentenced to eight months in prison, alongside ex-wife Vicky Pryce, on Monday.
Speaking to LBC 97.3 radio, Mr Clegg said today: "I do have mixed emotions and I feel very sad for his whole family. Whatever he's done, he still remains someone I've known for many years and a friend.
"I'm not going to say that because he's done something wrong and he's serving his time that that's not the case. That is the case."
He added: "I'm not going to airbrush out that Chris is someone I've known for many years, who is a friend, who is a close colleague, and I feel incredibly sad for his whole family, because his whole family has been engulfed by this.
"I don't think Chris would expect me to visit him in prison but I will see Chris once he...
"I haven't written to him. We've been in touch. The last time we were in touch was around the time of the Eastleigh by-election, but of course I will keep in touch with Chris once he has served his sentence.
"You can be clear someone's done something wrong and has to pay the consequences, but equally acknowledge that you can still keep in touch with them as a human being, as a friend."
Asked whether the eight-month sentence handed down to Huhne was sufficiently severe, Mr Clegg said: "It's not for politicians or for me to second-guess what a jury decides, what a judge decides.
"He's been handed down the sentence that the court thought was the right one for the crime that he committed and he now needs to serve his sentence.
"You know, perverting the course of justice is regarded very seriously by the courts and you can see why because the whole legal system doesn't of course work if people don't tell the truth about what has and hasn't happened."
Mr Clegg said it was for Huhne to decide whether he accepted the £17,000 pay-off for leaving the Cabinet and whether he should claim the £53,000 to which he is entitled to cover the expense of winding up his office.