Former UK minister Huhne in court

Fri, Mar 2, 2012, 00:00

Former British energy secretary Chris Huhne appeared in court today accused of perverting the course of justice.

Mr Huhne and his former wife Vicky Pryce exchanged strained smiles and muttered under their breath as they appeared before a crown court judge in London this morning.

Mr Huhne (57) who remains the Conservative MP for his home town of Eastleigh in Hampshire, stood down from the British cabinet to fight claims he persuaded his wife to take the blame for a 2003 driving offence.

John Kelsey Fry QC, the top criminal barrister who represented football boss Harry Redknapp at his tax fraud acquittal last month, has been appointed by Mr Huhne.

Mr Huhne, from Dutton Lane, Eastleigh, and Ms Pryce, from Crescent Grove, Clapham, south London, will appear again for a plea and case management hearing “at some time in the week beginning May 21st”, Mr Justice Saunders said.

A trial could take up to two weeks, the court heard.

After briefly exchanging glances with Mr Huhne, Ms Pryce - who is also accused of perverting the course of justice -  made notes during the brief hearing.

Wearing a black and white cotton scarf and black-rimmed glasses, she looked down for much of the hearing.

Mr Huhne, wearing a mauve tie with white shirt and navy suit, spoke only to confirm his name.

Ms Pryce (59) was listed in court by her Greek forename, Vasiliki. The pair left the bulletproof glass-encased dock on unconditional bail.

The events which led to the charges date back to March 2003, when Mr Huhne’s car was allegedly caught by a speed camera on the motorway between Stansted Airport in Essex and London.

But accusations of impropriety only emerged in 2010, after the father-of-five admitted an affair with PR adviser Carina Trimingham and ended his 26-year marriage.

He resigned from his job as a minister last month after it was announced that he would face criminal charges, following an eight-month police investigation.

Perverting the course of justice carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.