LONDON : A disgraced British judge was jailed Friday for 16 months for a catalogue of lies and deception in a case that brought down government minister Chris Huhne.
Constance Briscoe, 56, a lawyer and part-time judge, became the third person to be imprisoned in a bitter saga of revenge that wrecked the politician’s career. Huhne, a former energy secretary, was jailed last year after he admitted passing speeding points to his then-wife Vicky Pryce in 2003 in order to avoid a driving ban.
Pryce, a high-flying Greek-born economist, used the information to wreak revenge after Huhne left her for his personal assistant in 2010. With the help of Briscoe, her neighbour, she leaked information about the points-swapping to the newspapers.
Pryce was subsequently prosecuted for perverting the course of justice and jailed last year.
On Thursday the episode claimed another victim when Briscoe, once hailed as a black role model, was found guilty of a similar offence. In his sentencing remarks, judge Jeremy Baker said Briscoe had been ‘motivated, as was Vicky Pryce, by a joint desire to ensure the downfall of Chris Huhne.
‘Such conduct strikes at the heart of our much-cherished system of criminal justice,’ he said. Briscoe had initially presented herself to police as an objective witness in the case, but it later emerged that she had spoken with Pryce 1,670 times in 22 months and had contacted the newspapers. ‘You sought to hide your true motive and role’ in exposing the points-swapping story, Baker told the Old Bailey court in London. ‘You then compounded your position by deliberately fabricating evidence when you thought that you might be exposed.’
He said the common thread between Briscoe, Pryce and Huhne was ‘one of arrogance by educated individuals who considered that respect for the law was for others’. Huhne and Pryce both served a quarter of their eight-month prison sentences.
Huhne was narrowly beaten by Nick Clegg in the 2007 Liberal Democrat party leadership contest. Clegg became deputy prime minister when the Lib Dems entered a coalition government in 2010. Huhne was one of their few cabinet ministers but his political career was destroyed by the court case. Now a newspaper columnist, Huhne said Briscoe had been exposed as ‘a compulsive and self-publicising fantasist’.
Briscoe was one of the first black women to sit as a judge in Britain. Following her conviction, it emerged she is also facing a criminal investigation into allegations that she fraudulently obtained documents used to defend libel claims brought against her by her mother. In her 2006 memoir ‘Ugly’, Briscoe accused her mother of a catalogue of childhood abuse. Carmen Briscoe-Mitchell disputed the claims and called her daughter a ‘wicked liar’, but lost her libel case.