Vicky Pryce, the former wife of our MP Chris Huhne, has told a court that he forced her to take speeding points on his behalf yesterday.
It is alleged that Ms Pryce took the points for Huhne in 2003 after speed cameras caught Huhne’s car speeding on an Essex motorway.
Appearing at Stratford Crown court yesterday MS Pryce entered a plea of ‘not guilty’ to charges of perverting the course of justice due to alleged ‘marital coercion.
In cases where marital coercion is used as a defence the burden of proof falls to the defence to prove marital coercion on the balance of probabilities, whereas the burden is on the prosecution to disprove duress beyond reasonable doubt. Marital coercion need not involve physical force or a threat of force. – but mere loyalty to a spouse isn’t enough.
Also appearing on the same charge, Mr Huhne, who has previously publicly denied any wrongdoing, did not enter a plea of ‘not guilty’ as he is seeking a separate court hearing to get the case dismissed.
A provisional trial date has been set for 2 October.
Mr Huhne resigned from a seat in the cabinet in February to fight the case – a conviction would almost certainly trigger a by-election here the outcome of which would be uncertain.
Although the Conservatives might be expected to win back the previously safe seat they lost in 1994 their poor showing in national opinion polls and the recent strong Lib Dem performance in Eastleigh’s local elections – when they reclaimed seats lost to defectors – indicate a sharp tussle could lie ahead.
While Labour may be riding high in the opinion polls they failed to gain any Borough Council seats in May’s local elections – although Pete Luffman missed Eastleigh South by just a dozen votes.