Chris Huhne changes plea to guilty

(373 Posts)
NicholasTeakozy Mon 04-Feb-13 11:03:10

BBC link here. I reckon that's the end of his political career then.

Is it not the case that a person in a civil partnership cannot file for divorce on the grounds of infidelity? This is according to a source on MN (must be true then grin), cited in evidence that true equality has not been achieved with the recent legislation. If that is true, it seems bizarre to me, but could be filed under 'the law is an ass' I suppose.

<<off to read the blog>>

TheDoctrineOfSciAndNatureClub Fri 08-Feb-13 21:15:26

If that's the case, it may be the same reason as this marital coercion thing only applying to women - lawmakers actually want to phase it out (isn't it usually advised not to cite infidelity in divorce now?) so haven't extended it where equality would say that they ought to.

EmmelineGoulden Fri 08-Feb-13 21:18:14

There's no specific provision to dissolve a civil partnership on the grounds of adultery, though the government says being sexually unfaithful falls under unreasonable behaviour.

I'm pretty sure adultery in the UK is defined as sex with someone of the opposite sex. You can't cite adultery if your partner has a homosexual affair, so it might seem a bit bizzarre as a grounds in same sex marriage. It seems like an anomaly of the hetro-normative legal definition of adultery. Which isn't supposed to excuse it, it could have been changed along with marriage.

Xenia Fri 08-Feb-13 21:29:34

That's true. Adultery has to involve penetration by a man of a woman and only in the right place although neither needs to orgasm which is one issue they were wrestling with with the new gay marriages act. They have duckedi t by saying no issues of adultery. It doesn't much matter as unreasonable behaviour covers all this type of stuff anyway.

There has only been one gruojnd for divorce by the way since about 1970 that the marriage has irretrievably broken down which you can show in various ways one of which is adultery another is unreasonable behaviour which you can just about make out or find in any marriage so there is in effect divorce on demand after a year.

I don't think it much matters that this marital coercion stuff only applies to married women. You can use duress in any other type of relationship which is probably sufficient for most people.

The reason the new marriage bill does not include adultery is the civil servants wrestled with the definitions - who has to stick what in whom in terms of lesbian sex etc for it to occur. They did think about leaving it for the courts to decide as they have left the definition of adultery to judges too in hetero marriage. They decided not too. It doesn't really matter as if you kiss someone else or spend 7 hours talking to them every day and not your spouse then that is unreasonable behaviour and can prove the marriage is over. We could really get rid of lal these things you have to prove and just say divorce on demand after a year and I think it would have virtually no effect and be a lot more straightforward. Same with divorce. Up to the current limit it is reall on demand. All this rubbish about mental health being hurt is just a farce. Why not just admit it is on demand up to the limit date and after that just for disabilities?

Goodness me, the Law is actually an ass shock - I had no idea that a homosexual affair would not 'count' as adultery, nor that penetration was required.
I entirely agree that divorce should be available after a certain time had lapsed, without reasons needed and for any legal parternship.

Dh is NOT reassured that he can legally cheat on my with a man to his heart's content grin

LineRunner Fri 08-Feb-13 21:45:11

amothersplaceisinthewrong Thu 07-Feb-13 22:15:03
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

That is a kind of Bingo moment. Just saying.

EmmelineGoulden Fri 08-Feb-13 23:28:36

Duress requires a fear of death or serious harm while marital coercion does not, so it's not an equivalent substitute for husbands or same sex marraiges.

Continuing on the the-law-is-an-ass-adultery-sidetrack, I believe it use to be the case long ago that adultery was only committed in law if the woman was married. A married man having sex with an unmarried woman was not legally an adulterer. Of course I do spend rather too much time reading things on the Internet, so not sure about the veracity of that one...

Xenia Sat 09-Feb-13 08:31:12

That's true and I think my link to the definitions above made it clear. I certainly agree marital corecion is likely to be abolished but perhaps we only should when the numbers of women and men abused in marriage are similar and the statistics currently are no where near that.

I am not so sure about adultery. I think all the cases even from the 1800s had adultery down as something the married person did. There wasn't that much marriage anyway until a few hundred years ago. There i a good history book on English rules from about 1000 to 1900 - a History of Sex which I read last year by an Oxford academic. Very interesting book about how marriage has changed over the ages. It certainly used to be the chivalrous tradition that even if the woman committed adultery the man would pretend he had with a hired woman and get a PI to obtain evidence - that would have been in the Victorian age I think.

limitedperiodonly Sat 09-Feb-13 10:04:46

and this ridiculous woman sits in judgement of people

Blows my theory out of the water that lawyers are too sensible to get involved in harebrained schemes confused

BerylStreep Sat 09-Feb-13 11:28:14

Some of the lawyers I know should be in jail.

limitedperiodonly Sat 09-Feb-13 12:45:38

I'm not really surprised TBH. More resignedly pissed off that people who would regard themselves as better than the average person behave so badly and stupidly. That's everyone involved in this case bar the children.

When Briscoe published that misery lit book and had that libel case with her mother I remember thinking 'WTF are you doing and why isn't someone senior in the judiciary telling you to STFU?'

Then when she indulged in a personal spat with Diane Abbott and gave interviews about the messy fall out with her boyfriend she must have got a discreet warning. But maybe not.

I wonder what will happen to Judge Publicity-Junkie's career after this? She's currently suspended, isn't she?

emilywq Sat 09-Feb-13 13:06:34

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

Xenia Sat 09-Feb-13 16:55:49

I don't know anything about what she (CB) did in terms of what she may have thought was help for her friend (and there are certainly enough adulterers around who need their comeuppance) but she was perfectly entitled to write her book Ugly. It will have helped lots of women who were abused in their childhoods and is a very good book.

Far far too many men (and a few women) get let off scott free by all these suggestions you somehow spare your children by ensuring they don't know the truth. That suggestion is usually mostly to protect those who have erred and strayed. Children are entitled to the truth.

limitedperiodonly Sat 09-Feb-13 18:21:49

Someone in Constance Briscoe's position should tell anyone, let alone a friend, to stop talking to her about a criminal offence and advise her to talk to a criminal defence solicitor instead. If she persisted Briscoe should have thought about going to the police not the Mail on Sunday.

That's what you do if you're not a stupid person addicted to publicity.

She was entitled to write her book and people are entitled to like it. She might make a useful advocate for the victims of childhood abuse. She should have thought about the consequences in her position and no doubt she did.

But she should not have become a judge because her impartiality would be called into question if ever she handled a case of childhood abuse. I don't know why she was allowed to continue after that book.

limitedperiodonly Sat 09-Feb-13 18:52:56

Also isn’t Briscoe something called an officer of the court? I don’t know exactly what that means but I think you’re meant to help justice rather than your mates.

Obviously people do help their mates but people are generally a bit careful, aren’t they? I mean, no one wants to be without a chair when the music stops.

I hope Briscoe is one of the people in this who gets what’s coming to her.

EmmelineGoulden Sat 09-Feb-13 19:11:59

Judges aren't supposed to be impartial because they've never been effected by crime or breach of contract etc.. Their training is supposed to make them able to see past their own and others' immediate experiences and apply the law. They get appointed because they are seen to show through their practice that they are capable of doing just that. If anything they've had too few of the experiences most people live through (most of them coming from untypically privileged backgrounds) - from that perspective Briscoe's appointment is badly needed and her suspension could be a bit of a blow.

We're not use to judges who seek publicity, and we tend to see women who push themselves forward as particularly unsuitable, but it doesn't actually mean she is less good at being a judge. None of which means I'm a huge fan of hers, or of celebrity judges. Just think she's getting a hard time over some things because she's female and a bit brash, not because she's a poor judge.

limitedperiodonly Sat 09-Feb-13 19:37:21

Oh, ok, Emmeline. Thanks.

I understand the concept that judges are meant to be above being affected by events in the way that ordinary people are not.

I'm not a fan of Briscoe's reach for the papers and book deals and appearances on telly which seem predicated more on how she will look rather than anything else.

I mistrust celebrity judges because as a celebrity journalist I suspect she's reaching beyond what we have and I don't want to see judges appearing on chat shows talking about live cases as they do in the US.

As a journalist I'd snatch her hand off professionally though privately I'd think she was unwise. But I'd expect her to cover her arse because I cover mine and wouldn't give it a thought beyond that.

I do think what she did in speaking to the Mail on Sunday showed extremely poor judgement and if she was that worried about a serious crime she should have gone to the police or advised Pryce to go with a solicitor.

Xenia Sun 10-Feb-13 08:03:16

It's usually better not to speak to the papers like that. I was surprised she apparently did (if she did). However I would separate out the book issue - I think it was a good book and important it was written (I think was a barrister, not a judge when it was written). The more reminders we have of how awful many parents are in abusing their children the better and how much abuse of all kinds of never revealed. Even that poor suicide music student girl did not want the case investigated as she wanted to keep it buried. Although of course she should not have confided in anyone to ensure it never was. As soon as you tell someone anything you risk disclose.

bunchamunchycrunchycarrots Wed 20-Feb-13 14:18:43

Jury has been discharged as they can't reach a verdict. Not sure yet if there will be a retrial.

Xenia Wed 20-Feb-13 14:36:55

What a clever jury (mostly women) and what wise questions and how tough it must be to decide these kinds of things. So I assume the CPS now has to decide whether to mount another trial with a fresh jury or not to do so....

"The jury in the trial of Chris Huhne’s ex-wife Vicky Pryce at Southwark Crown Court has been discharged after failing to reach a verdict on a charge of perverting the course of justice by taking speeding points for him.

Earlier the jury was told it can reach a majority verdict after being given the answers to 10 questions about the case.

The series of questions included a request for the definition of reasonable doubt and a question of whether a juror could come to a verdict based on a “reason that was not present in court and had no facts or evidence to support it”.

The panel of eight women and four men have been deliberating Ms Pryce’s case for almost 14 hours at Southwark Crown Court, in central London.

The senior economist, 60, admits taking Huhne’s speeding points in May 2003 but has pleaded not guilty to perverting the course of justice, claiming marital coercion. Huhne is facing jail after pleading guilty on February 4, the day their joint trial was to begin.

The jury, which was sent out last Thursday but did not sit on Friday, asked 10 questions at 2pm yesterday. Mr Justice Sweeney gave the answers this morning before repeating “the absolutely vital importance of your following my directions of law to the letter”.

Asked to define reasonable doubt, the judge said: “A reasonable doubt is a doubt that is reasonable. These are ordinary English words that the law does not allow me to help you with, beyond the written directions that I have already given.”

The jury asked whether they could “infer anything from the fact that the defence didn’t bring witnesses from the time of the offence, such as the au pair or neighbours”.

Mr Justice Sweeney said: “You must not, as I have now emphasised many times, speculate on what witnesses who have not been called might have said or draw inferences from their absence.”

He referred to Ms Pryce’s evidence that, when she signed the form accepting responsibility for the speeding points, no one but Huhne was present.

The jury also asked whether a juror could come to a verdict based on a reason that was not presented in court and has no facts or evidence to support it, and whether they could “speculate about the events at the time Ms Pryce signed the form or what was in her mind at the time”.

Mr Justice Sweeney said that the answer to both questions was a “firm no”. To come to a conclusion based on a reason not heard in court would be “completely contrary to the directions I have given you”, he said.

The jury asked the judge to expand on the definition of the defence of marital coercion, providing examples, and whether it requires violence or physical acts.

He said it did not require violence or physical threats and meant a woman was so affected by pressure from her husband that she was “impelled” to commit an offence and truly believed she had no real choice.

The panel asked whether religious conviction would be a good enough reason for a wife to feel she had no choice, because she promised to obey her husband in wedding vows.

The judge responded: “This is not, with respect, a question about this case at all. Vicky Pryce does not say that any such reason formed any part of her decision to do what she did. Answering this question will not help you in any way whatsoever to reach a true verdict in this case. I must direct you firmly to focus on the real issues in this case.”

Another question read: “In the scenario where the defendant may be guilty but there is not enough evidence provided by the prosecution at the material time of when she signed the notice of intended prosecution (between 3rd and 7th May 2003) to feel sure beyond reasonable doubt what should the verdict be? Not guilty or unable/unsafe to provide a verdict?”

The judge responded by reminding the jury about the burden and standard of proof.

After answering all the questions he repeated the “absolutely vital importance of your following my directions of law to the letter and the fact that it is an equally important part of each of your individual duties to ensure that all of you do follow my directions of law to the letter”.

“If for whatever reason, any one or more of you feel you do not understand my directions, then it would be wholly wrong to reach a verdict one way or the other.

“Equally, the duty of all of you is to ensure that no one of your number does reach a conclusion one way or another unless they are confident they are able to understand and follow to the letter my directions.

He gave the jury a majority direction, meaning they can deliver a verdict if at least 10 people agree.

“If, after further consideration, you find yourselves in a position where you are simply not able to agree, then you must of course have the courage to say so. I hope all that is clear.”

The offence dates back to 2003 when Huhne’s BMW was clocked speeding on the way back from Stansted Airport.

Ms Pryce has claimed that Huhne forced her to take his points to avoid losing his licence in May 2003. The alleged offence became public in May 2011, almost one year after Huhne left his wife of 26 years for his bisexual aide Carina Trimingham."

cumfy Wed 20-Feb-13 14:51:08

Xenia, I know you're just quoting, but I wonder why is the judge going on about reasonable doubt ?

The test for marital coercion defence (the only issue) is balance of probabilities.

If judge really has misdirected hmm on this point won't there almost inevitably be a retrial ?

cumfy Wed 20-Feb-13 15:03:51

BBC news has quoted reasonable doubt bit, so I'm rather confused here.

Surely VP was never contending the central actus reus just raising the MC defence ?

Xenia Wed 20-Feb-13 16:40:53

Not sure.
Anyway she starts the whole thing over again on Monday with a different jury, which I suppose is better than a guilty verdict but it must be strange to be back to square one.

hackmum Wed 20-Feb-13 17:23:02

Very interesting. I agree with Xenia that the jury's questions were mostly good, but on PM just now they were implying that the jury was a bit thick and had misunderstood what they were supposed to do as a jury.

I was really struck in the judge's summing up that he said that the prosecution had to prove, beyond reasonable doubt, that Vicky Pryce had not been coerced. The jury clearly stumbled on this, because in a normal trial you're trying to prove that someone has done something, not that they haven't. Philosophically it's a conundrum - how could the prosecution prove that she wasn't coerced, without any real evidence? On the other hand, that makes the idea that she was coerced the default position, which seems wrong, as a matter of logic.

cumfy - it's interesting that you mention that the correct issue is not reasonable doubt but balance of probabilities. I didn't know that, and if that is the case, it seems to me that he did indeed misdirect the jury.

bunchamunchycrunchycarrots Wed 20-Feb-13 17:27:18

How will they be able to get a jury that hasn't already been aware of this played out all over the media? Is it even worth going to the expense of another trial?

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now