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Huhne and Pryce jailed over points

Disgraced MP Chris Huhne and his former wife Vicky Pryce have been jailed for eight months - a decade to the day since the speeding offence that led to their downfall.

The former Cabinet minister was told he had fallen from a "great height" as he and his economist ex-wife were sentenced for perverting the course of justice.

The jail term, handed down at Southwark Crown Court, is the culmination of a ten-year drama after Pryce took three speeding points for her then-husband in 2003.

The 60-year-old was convicted after a retrial last week, while Huhne, 58, pleaded guilty on the first day of his trial last month - a u-turn that followed months of denials and failed attempts to get the case thrown out.

The former energy secretary, who once had hopes of the Lib Dem leadership, has become the first former Cabinet minister since Jonathan Aitken to be jailed.

The former couple, who hit the headlines with their messy split in 2010, showed no emotion as they sat just feet from each other in the dock in the packed courtroom, which included Huhne's father, and his partner Carina Trimingham.

Jailing the pair, Mr Justice Sweeney told Huhne he had fallen from a "great height" and Pryce from a "considerable height".

"To the extent that anything good has come out of this whole process, it is that now, finally, you have both been brought to justice for your joint offence," he said.

"Any element of tragedy is entirely your own fault."

He said both had given valuable public service but he had no doubt of their "shared ambition" when Pryce took the points.

The prosecution unmasked Pryce's attempts to "manipulate and control the press" to bring Huhne down, the judge said, saying she had shown a "controlling, manipulative and devious side".

He told the disgraced politician: "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."

The judge said that Huhne's lies and attempts at manipulating the legal process had not added to his sentence, nor had the way Pryce - who adopted a defence of marital coercion - conducted her case, but may be relevant when it comes to determining costs.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is trying to recoup 117,558 for the prosecution of the former couple - 79,015 for Huhne and 38,544 for Pryce - plus an extra 31,000 from Huhne for his attempts to get the case thrown out.

Costs are to be determined at a hearing at a later date.

Huhne and Pryce, who are likely to have been taken first to Holloway and Wandsworth prisons, will wake up behind bars exactly a decade since Huhne's black BMW was clocked speeding on the M11.

With nine points already on his licence, he faced a ban so Pryce took the points.

The offence remained unknown for years until Pryce - seeking revenge after Huhne left her for Ms Trimingham in June 2010 - used the offence as the "weapon" to bring down her ex-husband.

She pursued a lengthy press campaign to "nail" the father of her children, approaching the Mail on Sunday then the Sunday Times.

The story was published on May 8, 2011, and despite trying to hide her own involvement, Pryce was revealed as the person who took the points.

The scandal sparked a police investigation and the former couple were charged last February, forcing Huhne to resign as energy secretary.

Repeatedly denying the offence, he tried to get the case dismissed and when that failed, he dramatically pleaded guilty on the first day of trial on February 4.

During Pryce's trial she adopted the rarely-used defence of marital coercion, claiming Huhne had bullied her into taking the points.

The mother-of-five claimed Huhne twice demanded that she have abortions because of the effect on his career - a claim the disgraced MP's lawyer today refuted.

Opening the case against Huhne at today's hearing, prosecutor Andrew Edis QC said he had "resolutely" denied what he knew was true.

He told the court Huhne's attempts to get the case dismissed prompted a second police investigation and "indefatigable efforts" to find extra evidence which he knew did not exist.

"It is not unfair to suggest that if that had succeeded the course of justice would in fact have been further perverted," he said, adding: "In certain respects the conduct of his defence could properly be described as scandalous and a costs order could reflect that."

Mitigating for Pryce, Julian Knowles QC said that her age would mean the 60-year-old - once a top government economist - would struggle to rebuild her career.

He said Pryce had suffered a "truly tragic personal life" in the past few years: "No wife should have to suffer what she suffered."

John Kelsey-Fry QC, for Huhne, said Huhne had committed a "serious wrong" and realised he had "only himself to blame".

He said Huhne apologised for not admitting the offence when it first came to light.

"Some will say, no doubt, 'apologies are cheap', well in these circumstances they are not, actually," he said, saying the situation had had "catastrophic" consequences for the former MP.

He said some would have tried to "brazen it out", sparking a "bloodbath" of a trial, but Huhne's "sense of decency" had prevailed.

"I hope I am not overstating it by saying nobody has ever lost more so publicly and suffered such vilification for an offence of perverting the course of justice by points swapping," he said.

Huhne repeated the sentiment today, apologising unreservedly in an interview with the Guardian.

"I feel awful that so many people I love have been dragged into this," he added.

"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."

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