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Nothing but the truth – lying and the law

Updated: Feb 16

R v Huhne & Pryce

This was an infamous case that showed how one falsehood can snowball into an ugly web of lies including multiple parties, causing reputations, lives and careers.

It all started in 2003, when Chris Huhne, former MP and Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change was driving his vehicle at excess speed and had been caught by the speed cameras. At the time, he insisted it was his wife (as you do), former Head of the Government Economic Service Vasiliki ‘Vicky’ Pryce who was driving the car and she therefore received three penalty points on her driving licence.

In 2010, there was an unexpected turn of events; Huhne announced he was leaving his wife after it was found he has been having a long-term affair with a media adviser, Carina Trimingham. The couple officially divorced in 2011.

Shortly afterwards, Pryce stated that she knew Huhne had pressured people into taking his driving licence penalty points. Huhne denied these claims. However, following the allegations, a Labour MP Simon Danczuk made an official criminal complaint to Essex Police. In December of the same year, it was reported that the police had recommended to the CPS that both Huhne and Pryce ought to be prosecuted for the suspected offences.

In 2012, a statement was made that there was enough evidence to bring charges. The main focus of this investigation was whether Huhne had ‘swapped points’ with Pryce and whether he had forced her into doing so, causing her to falsely and unlawfully admit responsibility for the offence.

Pryce had built her argument on ‘marital coercion’ which meant that any offence (other than murder or treason) committed by a wife in the presence of her husband can act as an actual ground for defence because the wife would be under the coercion of the husband. As the investigation progressed, Constance Briscoe, who was a neighbour and a friend of Pryce, was arrested regarding statements she had made to the police about leaking the story to reporters. She claimed she didn’t have any involvement but the prosecution claimed Briscoe and Pryce, the woman scorned, had ‘created a plan’ on how to bring Huhne to his knees and had contacted a journalist to carry the points swapping story which incriminated Huhne.

In the end, Huhne and Pryce were jailed for eight months each, whereas Briscoe got a sentence of 16 months in jail. Her honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from the University of Wolverhampton was removed by the university’s nominations committee and she was also removed as a member of the judiciary. Briscoe was one of the first black female recorders in England and Wales, bestselling author and a mother of two.

Lord Jeffrey Archer

The House of Lords member and millionaire Jeffrey Archer is probably one of the most publicly known cases for proven perjury – lying under oath.

In 2001, Jeffrey Archer was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment. He was found guilty of two counts of perjury and obstructing the course of justice. Archer was accused of forging diaries that indicated his whereabouts and therefore gave him an alibi in a case where he was suing the Daily Star for defamation and received half a million pounds in compensation.

Archer had previous brushes with scandals, being accused of falsifying his academic achievements as well as having to resign from politics on multiple occasions due to his rogue nature but always seemed to bounce back and resume his career.

During the trial, the editor of the Daily Star, Peter Hill said Archer was “a proven liar, a cheat and a chancer, a man so arrogant that he thought he was above the law”. The court received testimonies from Archer’s former secretaries admitting he had asked them to lie and make false entries in the diaries he submitted to the trial as defence evidence. It was also exposed by the secretaries that Archer allegedly had a live-in mistress who was his assistant at the time.

Lady Archer had once again testified in her husband’s favour but was unable to aid him this time. Archer’s lawyers were set to appeal as the court decided on imprisonment. In 2002 however, Archer repaid the Daily Star as well as incurring £1,300,000 worth of legal costs and interest. In 2003 Archer was released from jail after serving two years and two days of his sentence.

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