Now that Chris Huhne and his wife have been banged up, a few words on this case. One question which has been asked is to what extent the sentences handed down were just? The answer depends on what you are comparing them to. If you consider the standard tariffs, then no doubt the sentences were within reasonable bounds. If, however, you compare then to the stories which parade through our newspapers on a near-daily basis, the sentences for Huhne and Pryce were extremely harsh. When a confirmed criminal can burgle, rob, mug and assault, and when facing the bench, need only utter the Benefit of Clergy de nos jours, ‘I’m sorry for what happened. It was the drugs wot made me do it’, and our kindly judiciary (kindly to criminals, not victims) will give the scallywag one more chance, then it throws Huhne’s villainy into context. And what was Huhne’s crime? Can it even be called a crime? His offence was against a regulation under which he was required to give testimony against himself, something contrary to the oldest principles in English justice.”He lied” says the chorus. Indeed, but to whom or what? To the government’s inquisitors, and under such duress, morality is suspended.
Now a politician lying is hardly ‘man bites dog’, more a tautology. But there are big lies and little lies. A big lie might be something like ‘Saddam has weapons of mass destruction, which he can launch within 45 minutes’. A little lie would be ‘I was not the one driving that night on the empty motorway when the car got flashed by one of the revenue-raising devices known as speed cameras.’ In the first instance, the consequences are thousands of dead and maimed bodies, and yet the perpetrator will be untouched by our legal system, indeed he will be guarded round the clock at our expense, to protect him from anyone attempting a citizen’s arrest. Such comparisons could be dismissed as irrelevant ‘whataboutery’, but as Huhne’s ignominious fall is being held up as an example of the blindness of our justice system with regard to privilege, i.e. something that would never happen to a rich politician in most of the world, then the comparison stands as an example of the hollowness of the assertion.
I have little sympathy for Huhne, and view his departure from the political scene as something of a blessing, due to his support for the most lunatic of hair-shirt greenism (for the rest of us, if not for himself), but let it not be forgotten his ‘crime’ was that he cheated on and then left his wife. Had it not been for this, the minor matter of sharing penalty points would have stayed in the obscurity it merited.
As for the trial(s) of his wife, Vicky Pryce, much fuss was made over the first jury and the supposed stupidity of its members, as indicated by one of the questions asked of the judge as to whether evidence that had not been presented in the case (i.e. presumably something culled from the media) could be taken into account. Now, it is indeed the case that such a question should not be put to a judge, but the answer to this question, contrary to everything I have heard said on the matter, is; yes. A jury can decide on whatever basis it chooses, this being the privilege of the jury. It is hardly an advertised fact, but a jury can, if it chooses, acquit a defendant, even when it thinks the defendant guilty, this being known as a ‘perverse verdict’, and being one of the most important and ultimate defences against state tyranny that our system provides. Personally, I expect I would have found her not guilty, whether I thought she was or not.