Chris Huhne and Vicky Pryce could be released from prison within weeks after serving just two months of speeding points sentenceThe pair are expected to be released on electronic tag in May
Former energy secretary is serving an eight-month jail sentenceHe and his ex-wife were both jailed last month after it emerged she had taken speeding points on his behalf a decade earlierProsecution say legal bill has been inflated by the 'enormous amount of work' put in by the CPS and police
Huhne's legal team offers 25,000, which they say is 'arguably generous'
13:15 GMT, 22 April 2013
23:42 GMT, 22 April 2013
Carina Trimingham leaving Southwark Crown Court today, as it emerges Chris Huhnewalk would walk free from prison next month
Chris Huhne and his former wife Vicky Pryce are due to walk free from jail within weeks after serving only two months of their eight-month sentences.
The news emerged yesterday as Huhne offered to pay less than a quarter of the 108,000 that prosecutors want him to cough up towards the costs of bringing him to justice.
They told a court the costs were so high because the multi-millionaire former Cabinet minister chose to run a dishonest defence.
But Huhne, 58, claims he should not have to meet the full taxpayer-funded bill and his barrister said he is willing to pay only 25,000.
He and 60-year-old Pryce were jailed on March 11 for perverting the course of justice after she took speeding points for him in 2003 so that he could avoid a driving ban.
This was seven years before their marriage collapsed over his affair with Carina Trimingham. Sources close to the former Liberal Democrat MP expect him to be released on May 13, but they added that his freedom could be delayed because of an administrative backlog of prisoners waiting to be released. Pryce is likely to be freed on the same day – after they have served only a quarter of their sentences.
They will probably be forced to wear an electronic tag and obey a night-time curfew on their release under a scheme for non-violent prisoners. For sentences of less than a year, offenders are automatically released after serving half their sentence.
In addition, offenders serving sentences of between three months and four years, with exceptions for violent and sexual offenders, may also be eligible for release on a home detention curfew. This allows offenders to be freed up to 135 days before their automatic release date.
Huhne returned yesterday to Southwark Crown Court, where he was jailed, to fight an attempt by the Crown Prosecution Service to get him to pay 108,539 towards the cost of bringing him to justice.
Wearing an unironed shirt and looking gaunt with unkempt hair, he listened intently during the three-hour hearing. Huhne was watched closely by Miss Trimingham and his father, Peter.
He was brought by van from Leyhill open prison in Gloucestershire.
Huhne sensationally pleaded guilty on the morning of what would have been their joint trial for perverting the course of justice.
Pryce, an economics professor, was
convicted after a retrial because the original jury could not reach a
verdict. She is in East Sutton Park open prison in Kent.
The costs bill is high because more
than a dozen legal hearings were held before the trial as Huhne tried to
get the case thrown out. It includes the 31,000 cost of a laborious
and time-consuming police inquiry he instigated with false claims of
corruption among investigators.
Disgraced: Chris Huhne, pictured in February, before he was sent to jail, has been hit with a claim for more than 100,000 costs over his attempts to get his speeding points case thrown out of court
Hell hath no fury… Huhne's ex-wife Vicky Pryce, left, faces a claim for nearly 50,000 over the case. The former cabinet minister's love Carina Trimingham, right, was in court to support him today
Prosecutor Andrew Edis, QC, attacked Huhne for failing to pay and said the scale of the costs was entirely his fault.
He said the ex-politician wanted to
run a dishonest defence alleging that Pryce’s claim that he made her
take his speeding points was a ‘lie’.
Mr Edis said: ‘But it was not a lie,
it was true and Mr Huhne always knew that. We do submit, as to costs,
that that is serious misconduct.’
The court heard the last-minute
inquiry by Kent Police was undertaken at Huhne’s ‘strident insistence’
amid claims he could not receive a fair trial otherwise.
It included the fruitless trawl of every single phone call made out of a police station over several weeks.
Mr Edis said: ‘All of this occurred
because Mr Huhne decided to do everything he could to try and get away
with what he had done.
‘He gave in only at the last minute when defeat was inevitable. That is why this bill has been incurred.’
Huhne’s barrister, John Kelsey-Fry,
QC, who commands up to 20,000 a day, accused the authorities of
‘rewriting history’. He claimed his client’s actions had in fact helped
police get to the bottom of the case.
Mr Kelsey-Fry said Huhne is prepared to pay a ‘reasonable, indeed arguably generous figure’ of 25,000.
Mr Justice Sweeney will publish his ruling on costs next week.