Chris Huhne was once considered one of the strongest contenders for the leadership of the UK’s third party, the Liberal Democrats. He served as an elected politician since 1999, and spent two years as a vital and high-profile member of the UK’s coalition government.However, after he admitted to lying in a decade old traffic case, Huhne’s political career is almost certainly over. Facing a charge for perverting justice, he will probably face jail time.
Huhne’s downfall basically comes down to two simple flaws — first, he loved to drive, but was apparently very bad at it.
Secondly, and more damagingly, he was prepared to lie, and convince others to lie, in a bid to escape the consequences of his bad driving.
The incident that sparked the scandal happened in 2003, when Huhne was a European Member of Parliament, and he was allegedly caught in a speed trap driving between London and Stansted Airport.
According to Huhne’s own admission today, when contacted by the police about the offence, he coerced his wife into taking the “points” on her licence in order to avoid being banned himself, and told police it was her behind the wheel (he was reportedly banned for a later driving offence anyway).
rumours about the speeding offence began circulating widely in 2011, and talk of a recording between Huhne and his estranged wife discussing the cover-up reaching the British press. Huhne’s friends spoke of a “smear campaign” against him. Huhne himself repeatedly told reporters that there was no truth to the rumours — almost a year ago he said in a statement:
“I am innocent of these charges and I intend to fight this in the courts and I am confident that a jury will agree.”
Ultimately, the speeding points themselves were a small crime. However, by lying about the crime for so long Huhne ruined himself. Guido Fawkes, one of the British political bloggers that pursued the story over the years, writes today:
Speaking today, Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer said that there is enough evidence to bring criminal charges against both Mr Huhne and his former wife for “perverting the course of justice”, and Huhne has announced he would plead guilty to the charges and would resign as a Member of Parliament.
According to the BBC’s legal affairs correspondent Clive Coleman, the crime is considered serious and invariably results in a prison sentence, usually between six months and a year. The maximum sentence possible is life imprisonment, the New York Times reports.
Perhaps even worse, the case seems to have torn apart Huhne’s family. Sad texts between Huhne and his son Peter have been released by the court that shows how angry his family was about being forced to lie.
“You are the most ghastly man I have ever known. Does it give you pleasure that you have lost most of your friends?” one text from Peter reads.
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