Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Huhne Cry

The precipitous downfall of Chris Huhne is a human tragedy for him and for his family. The text and email exchanges with his son that have just come to light are a heartbreaking read. Whatever Huhne's offence, the bitter poisoning of his relationship with his son will, over time, be the hardest thing to bear, Huhne is an able and wealthy man who will, given time, rebuild his life, but the family rift has the potential to sour every new day.
As a father and grandfather, I treasure my family above all else. Whatever Huhne has done, he has my sympathy for the appalling rift with the son who ought to be one of his greatest comforts, and we can only conjecture at the pressure on a young man who should be enjoying the best years of his life as an Oxford student.

L'affaire Huhne has served to remind us of the extraordinary lengths to which otherwise rational human beings will go to avoid losing their driving licence. There are many cases of people spending tens of thousands on Mr. Fixit lawyers, and of others who lie and cheat to avoid the consequences of their actions and end up jailed and ruined, all for the sake of a year's taxi fares.

One of my acquaintances has openly boasted of the fact that he has twice laid off speeding points on to his wife, and that does not cause me to respect him. I am quietly relieved that I do not have to make the moral choice whether to inform the police, because I do not have a shred of evidence other than saloon-bar hearsay.


  1. There are so many beautifully ordinary and basic everyday strands to this case.
    1. Man with vast wealth thinks he is above the law.
    2. Man with considerable political power ditto
    3. Man cannot keep penis in the right moral location
    4. Woman will always try to get their own back
    5. Man lies and ruins his life (temporarily at least as his wealth and connections will enable him to recover)
    6. Politician lies
    7. Politician continues to lie
    8. Politician tries to use almost every conceivable legal process to avoid prosecution
    9. Politician lies until the very last moment
    10. Virtually every ordinary person knew from the outset that the case would progress in the way it did – except that I’m sure most people thought he would not eventually roll over.
    11. The public trust in politicians suffers short-term decline – again.
    12. Vast amounts of public money is wasted – or is it?
    I’m sure there are many other strands that escape me at present but in essence, is anyone really surprised?

  2. Replies
    1. You'll be a Sun reader then. I have never heard anyone use the verb 'cage' in everyday speech.

    2. A Sun reader, eh?

      The Mags’ blog has often indicated that the socio-economic standing of the average accused is commensurate with what might be called the tabloid classes so it would be strange if you hadn’t come across the use of this idiom in your daily work. Unless of course, this usage is not in fact in the popular vernacular and that your tourrettes-style auto-response speaks more to a need within you to chide the great un-educated?

      In attempting to expose another, you may have revealed more about yourself. Caught with your intellectual pants down, so to speak – or, as Roger’s Profanisaurus might put it, Knickerless Caged

    3. You'll be the snob then. I have never heard anyone say that the written word has to mirror everyday speech.

      Utter broadsheet!

  3. I bet he's wishing he was Teddy Sheringham.

  4. Oh dear, oh dear5 February 2013 at 13:26

    Flog him: Telegraph reader
    Fine him - heavily: Times reader
    Send him back to where he came from: Daily Mail reader
    Stick him on a hook: Angling Time reader

    1. I read in the Metro this morning that "Graham from Bath" feels he should be made to 'pay back' every penny he has earned since he became and MP since 2005 because he would not be able to stand for being an MP with a conviction of perverting the course of justice. What a ridiculous suggestion that Chris should essentially be fined hundreds of thousands of pounds for what he did...is that my knee jerking...

    2. I do wonder whether MPs who bring the office into disrepute can have part of their pension confiscated, like police officers can. For an MP who had behaved with as much contempt towards the law as Huhne has, I don't think that's out of line.

  5. You are too lenient towards Huhne, BS. I too found the exchanges between Huhne and his son very painful and I thought the father's love for his son stood out, along with the hurt.

    But here was a man who has wasted God knows how much police time and public money, who lied aggressively about his innocence and who betrayed his close political colleagues with his relentless insistence that he had done no wrong. I will leave out the betrayal of his family as that is none of my business.

    His reference to a crime 10 years ago as though the element of time was a mitigating factor, was mealy-mouthed and demonstrated that he has not taken full responsibility for his action, which is exactly the point his son kept repeating to no avail.

  6. Perhaps some kind person could explain the procedure to me (IANAL). AIUI, these text messages were read out in court only after Huhne pleaded guilty. So why were they read out at all? was that because they formed part of the prosecution case against his ex-wife?

    Also, if reports are true, why did police seize the son's mobile phone? Did they have reason to believe it contained evidence? Or were they fishing? Would they do the same in the case of Bystander's acquaintance? Where an accusation is high in profile because the accused is in the public eye, is it more important that justice be seen to be done? Is Bystander's acquaintance not worth the expense of an investigation because he's not so newsworthy? That seems a little unfair, although I accept pragmatic cost/benefit decisions often do have to be made.

    1. Perhaps the son told the police about the texts.

    2. The texts haven't just come to light. They've only just been reported.

      There was a previous hearing as to whether or not they were admissible in evidence and it was decided that they were, but there were reporting restrictions (I think, but am not certain, over a range of matters, not just the text messages).

      They are now being reported because he has entered a guilty plea so they are no longer likely to prejudice his trial, so the restrictions were lifted.

      I'm not certain whether the phone was seized, but as this was an exchange of texts it may well have been that they were taken from Huhne's phone, not his son's, or that the son voluntarily disclosed them. Given that the son was under 18 at the time and was living with his mother, it may well be that she was the contract holder on the phone she could have authorised disclosure of the phone records, which would have given the prosecution the details of the times and dates of the texts. Given the nature of the texts it seems quite possible that the son may have agreed to hand over his phone voluntarily.

      It's sad that the relationship between father and son has been destroyed but other than that I have no sympathy at all for Huhne. he lied and lied for 10 years, has wasted huge amounts of public time and money. He has absolutely no excuse for his behaviour.

  7. A sad case in many ways BUT you hit the nail on the head re taxi fares. Much better to have taken the hit at the time. It would have all been over nearly 10 years ago since I doubt whether, as a totter, he would have received more than a 6 months disqualification. Instead he did what he did and must now suffer the consequences. Sentencing will be after conclusion of Pryce's trial which, we must remember, is on-going.

  8. A timely reminder from Obiter J as ever.

    A finely honed post from Bystander.

    A sad end to a political career that began in (fairly violent) student protest at fees whilst up at Oxford.

    But above all, as Bystander says, there is the terribly public implosion of an anguished family in the throes of breakdown. Whatever has happened since, and will happen now, will never efface the words and actions that led to this outcome.

  9. Perhaps we should think of it as a lucky escape for the country. In time he might have achieved even higher office. He seemed to be well regarded in the Lib Dems.

  10. I wonder what credit, if any, might be given for a (very late) Guilty plea. An early plea certainly gets a discount, but I am under the impression that 'death bed repentence' (i.e. changing your plea at the last minute) gets rather short shrift. At least he didn't put the prosecution to the trouble of calling their evidence before throwing in the towel.

    [Thinks: Could this comment prejudicially affect Hizonner's consideration of the sentence? It shouldn't do, as Hizonner is very unlikely to read it, and in any case it is a point he would be taking into consideration (or not, as the case may be) in any event.]

  11. The guideline for a plea at the door of the court is a tenth. It's all at


  12. "openly boasted" - you know a magistrate who has confessed to perverting the course of justice? Do tell?

  13. Read the post again. Where do we say he is a JP? He is in fact a chap who drinks in my local pub, and lives round the corner from me. He has as much chance of becoming a JP as I have of becoming Pope.

  14. keep talking. Which pub? So they're not a JP, but a JP knows that they lied about a crime.

  15. No, a JP knows nothing of the sort. Look up hearsay in your Ladybird Guide to the Law,and Google for some info about the standard of proof. Any more rubbish like that will not see light of day on the blog.

  16. 18 months
    This guy is a bare faced liar, manipulator and charlatan who finally has been caught out.
    His relentless and repeated lying as he tried to rubbish his ex wife is a disgrace. I don't think I've heard him say sorry yet.
    I suppose one redeeimg feature that in briefing John Kelsey-Fry he will have had to shell out a wadge of loot for his failed defence.

  17. Once upon a time when law enforcement on our roads was delivered by men and women called traffic police and those doing wrong were caused to stop their vehicles and have the errors of their ways pointed out Sanctions ranged from a ticking off to an invitation to half a day out with the magistrates.

    Then along came automated enforcement via a camera. Under the old system this matter would never have progressed this far. Now which system is best?

    1. A lot people, me included, are of the opinion that s172 RTA (Duty to give information as to identity of driver) violates the Right to Silence and as such convictions based on s172 disclosure and all convictions of an offense under s172 should be voided.

      And yes I know it has been to Europe and they decided (majority verdict only) that s172 is OK.

      There are plenty of countries where the camera has to get a good shot of the driver's face and identification is a matter for the court.

  18. It's rough up North10 February 2013 at 17:10

    I just hope all criminal justice policy makers, of whatever hue, remember this case when they next come up with some brainwave about "streamlining" justice and start to remember the defendant factor. If a supposedly intelligent man, a cabinet minister isn't going to grasp the "plead guilty early" mantra shouted as being the very thing needed then what hope is there when a typical defendant is confronted by the same call?


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