UK minister and ex-wife freed from jail

2013-05-13 17:06
Former British politician and government minister Chris Huhne, centre right, and his partner Carina Trimingham, speak to the media, in London. (Alastair Grant, AP)

Former British politician and government minister Chris Huhne, centre right, and his partner Carina Trimingham, speak to the media, in London. (Alastair Grant, AP)

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London - Britain's disgraced former energy minister Chris Huhne and his ex-wife were both freed from prison on Monday after serving a quarter of their eight-month sentences for swapping speeding points.

Huhne, aged 58, and his former spouse Vicky Pryce had been jailed in March for perverting the course of justice, after she took penalty points on her driving licence in 2003 so that her then husband could avoid a driving ban.

Pryce, a Greek-born 60-year-old economist, revealed the points swap in 2011 in a bid to get revenge at Huhne after he left her for his publicist - but the plan backfired and resulted in her being jailed herself after being found guilty in a retrial.

The former power couple - who will have to wear electronic tags as a condition of their early release - were pursued by packs of press photographers as they left their respective prisons on Monday.

Speaking to reporters outside his London home, Huhne said he was "very sorry" for what he did.

"It has been a humbling and sobering experience," he said. "I would now like to get on, get back to home, and continue with my life."

Marital breakdown

Huhne, who once ran for the leadership of the Liberal Democrats, junior partners in Britain's coalition government, and senior economist Pryce served their sentences in low-security jails.

Huhne spent eight weeks in Leyhill Prison in Gloucestershire, southwest England, while his ex-wife was at East Sutton Park Prison in Kent, southeast England.

Their trials gripped Britain's political class as the ugly tale of the marital breakdown was played out in the courtroom.

Huhne abruptly left Pryce for his aide Carina Trimingham just after the May 2010 general election that saw the centrist Lib Dems enter a coalition with Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives.

Huhne and Pryce had been married for 26 years and she is mother to three of his children. They divorced in 2011.

Pryce apparently became obsessed with destroying her ambitious ex-husband's political career and the court heard that she cooked up a plot to "nail" him by revealing the speeding points scam.

Allegations that Huhne passed speeding points to an unidentified person ran in two British newspapers in May 2011. Huhne and Pryce were both arrested and were charged with perverting the course of justice in February 2012.

Grateful for support

Huhne stood down from the cabinet last year to fight the allegations. He resigned his seat in parliament on 5 February after pleading guilty.

Pryce unsuccessfully used the defence of marital coercion, claiming Huhne pressured her into taking the points.

As she posed for photographers outside her London home on Monday, her lawyer told reporters that she was "very pleased to be home" and looking forward to resuming her career.

"She is grateful for all the support she has received from everyone whilst in prison, including her fellow residents and prison staff," said solicitor Robert Brown.

"She now intends to spend time with her family and looks forward to returning to her career as an economist."

He added that Pryce is considering writing about the economics of the criminal justice system - combining her academic expertise with her personal experience behind bars.

Offenders serving short prison sentences in Britain are eligible for early release on a home detention curfew, with the exception of those convicted of violent or sexual crimes.

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