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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.

TheDoctrineOfSciAndNatureClub Wed 20-Feb-13 18:04:57

The existing jury would have been aware of it, unless they were sequestered (unlikely)

NuclearStandoff Wed 20-Feb-13 18:07:28

Jury clearly a bunch of bozos.

The question about religious conviction really takes the biscuit.

And the one about deciding based on evidence not presented in court.

cumfy Wed 20-Feb-13 19:23:16

The judge and both counsel are "a bunch of bozos", if they misdirected the jury to the standard of proof required in the marital coercion defence.

This was an extremely simple case, evidentially and legally, and it would be beyond stupefying if all 3 of them have let the jury be misdirected to the central issue in law.

tiggytape Wed 20-Feb-13 22:32:41

I agree Nuclear - it is pretty frightening since if they had reached a verdict, we'd never know that it was based entirely on things that they shouldn't even be considering.

Very few people perhaps know the ins and outs of a jury's role but surely it is blindingly obvious, even if you'd never set foot in a court, that you cannot base your verdict on evidence that you have entirely made up in your own head and that neither the defence nor prosecution ever mentioned at all during the whole trial!!
(like religious wedding vows for example - why the hell would they be discussing that in the jury room when neither side ever mentioned it).

The definition of the defence of marital coercion is fair enough as it is something not many would understand the limits of but all the rest is a bit frightening. I'd hope that most juries do not consider evidence that was never presented in court, possible testimonies from witnesses who were never called and totally unrelated or never mentioned religious convictions!

that makes the idea that she was coerced the default position, which seems wrong, as a matter of logic.

No this is how it should be. The assumption is that she is innocent until it is proven otherwise. She has nothing to prove in court at all - it is entirely up to the prosecution to show she is guilty (ie that she willingly lied). If they cannot prove this beyond reasonable doubt then the jury have to find her innocent - just like in any other trial where the defendant is assumed to be innocent unless the case against them is so strong it persuades a jury to find them guilty.

BerylStreep Wed 20-Feb-13 23:24:07

Tiggy, the fact that Price lied by signing a form stating she was driving, thereby perverting the course of justice, has been proven. The burden of proof for asserting her defence of marital coercion surely lies with her and not the prosecution.

hackmum Thu 21-Feb-13 08:27:32

Beryl - that's what I think, too. Logically, at any rate, you'd expect the burden of proof to be on the defence to show that she was coerced. Legally, it might be different - it might be the case that the prosecution has to prove she wasn't coerced, because that is the way it works normally, ie it's up to the prosecution to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt. But then you have this conundrum: how do you prove someone wasn't coerced? It's a very very hard thing to prove, almost impossible, I'd have thought. No wonder the jury felt very confused by it all and started to wonder about whether they could take into account stuff that wasn't presented in court.

However, if cumfy is right, it shouldn't have been about reasonable doubt at all, it should have been balance of probabilities.

EmmelineGoulden Thu 21-Feb-13 08:40:48

tiggy the onus is on the defence to prove coercion, not the prosecution to prove she wasn't coerced. Marital coercion is a defence in law, the presumption is that she acted of her own volition. As I understand it she only has to prove coercion on the balance of probablities though, not beyond reasonable doubt.

The prosecution still need to prove the offence beyond a reasonable doubt, but Pryce's admission pretty much does that for them.

EmmelineGoulden Thu 21-Feb-13 08:50:50

Sorry for the redundancy. Selectively reading posts while being jumped on by children...

tiggytape Thu 21-Feb-13 09:05:14

tiggy the onus is on the defence to prove coercion, not the prosecution to prove she wasn't coerced.

No that is not the case. The judge made it very clear that she has nothing to prove:
"There is no burden on the defendant to prove her innocence. On the contrary, there is no burden on the defendant to prove anything at all."

She has said she is innocent of the crime she is accused of and it is for the prosecution to prove, if they can, that she is not innocent of it. The default position therefore is that she was coerced unless the prosecution can prove that she in fact willingly signed that form, in which case they have proved an offence took place.

tiggytape Thu 21-Feb-13 09:16:02

Before the 10 questions were made known in the court, the judge "told them the crucial issue is whether the prosecution can prove she was not subjected to marital coercion by her husband at the time."

Again, he told the jury: The standard of proof that the prosecution must achieve before you can convict is simply this, the prosecution must make you feel sure of guilt, that is the same as but no more than the proof of guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

It is very plain - if the prosecution cannot make a jury feel certain that she wasn't coerced, then they must assume that she was and find her innocent. The prosecution has to do the proving not the other way round. It is never the other way round.

tiggytape Thu 21-Feb-13 09:18:35

....and I agree, proving a negative is hard. Proving she wasn't coerced is a very, very hard thing to do. But that's what the prosecution must do to secure a guilty verdict. If they cannot prove it, she is innocent and therefore was coerced as she maintains

hackmum Thu 21-Feb-13 09:23:08

tiggy, everything you say is reasonable, and as the judge laid it out. And yet I've just read this by a barrister:

He says:

"A defendant relying on this defence therefore has to prove two things, on the balance of probabilities:

That the crime was committed in the presence of her husband
That the crime was committed under the coercion of her husband"

Now, to me, that clearly says that the burden of proof lies with the defence, not the prosecution. Yet rather annoyingly, the barrister doesn't then go on to say "but the judge got it wrong!" I'm actually quite tempted to write to him and ask him.

BerylStreep Thu 21-Feb-13 09:24:05

At the risk of quoting wikipedia:

The burden of proof is on the defence to prove marital coercion on the balance of probabilities. For duress, the burden is on the prosecution to disprove duress beyond reasonable doubt.

This would appear to be at odds with the directions of the judge that Tiggy refers to.

tiggytape Thu 21-Feb-13 09:40:46

I see what you mean Beryl but that is more about proving she has the right to claim marital coercison in the first place. To use marital coercion, the woman need only prove she was lawfully married at the time and that her husband was present at the moment she did whatever it was that he 'made her do'

So in that regard - yes - she has to prove she was legally his wife at the time and that he was present at the time (so if he'd been abroad on business on those dates she might be a bit stuck or if they were divorced she wouldn't be able to use marital coercion either).

But all else falls to the prosecution to prove. If they want to overturn her presumed innocence, they must prove that she wasn't coerced at all - that she did it willingly.
So, for example, produce evidence that he was abroad during this time so couldn't possibly have been there, or produce an email where she suggests she takes the points and insists on doing so, or find a witnesses that says she readily admitted she took the points because she wanted to save him losing his licence etc. I don't know what evidence along these lines they have produced - not much I don't think beyond the assumption that any powerful woman is not capable of being coerced which is why the abortion details came out - her saying she was previously coerced by him.

If the prosecution can prove beyond reasonable doubt that she wanted to take the points and willingly signed that form, then she's guilty. If they can't prove she did it willingly then she remains innocent (as the judge directed).

BerylStreep Thu 21-Feb-13 09:49:54

But Tiggy, your argument surely makes a presumption that coercion exists in any situation where a wife is married to her husband and her husband is present?

S47 states:

'Any presumption of law that an offence committed by a wife in the presence of her husband is committed under the coercion of the husband is hereby abolished, but on a charge against a wife for any offence other than treason or murder it shall be a good defence to prove that the offence was committed in the presence of, and under the coercion of, the husband'.

I still think that it is for the defence to prove the coercion, not just that she is legally married to him and that he was present. However, I will admit that I am neither a judge or a barrister … grin

If the judge has misdirected the jury, you would have thought that legal bods would have picked up on this.

tiggytape Thu 21-Feb-13 09:57:16

Well she has said that she was coerced and therefore the prosecution must prove that she wasn't. That's the trouble - she has offered further evidence to 'prove' that she was coerced (eg the abortion details) and the prosecution have shown evidence to show she wasn't (woman in powerful job out to discredit her husband).

How would a woman to prove coercion? If there was a taped recording from the house saying 'take my points and sign that form or else..' I think she'd have won by now.
But equally there's no email saying 'Dear Chris, I insist on taking the points and have signed the form already. Think no more about it'

Where no compelling evidence either way exists, do you just decide that a defendant is therefore guilty?
Guilty because there is no strong evidence to say she is innocent but no strong evidence that says she is guilty?
That would be a pretty scary outcome - in the absense of convincing proof either way a person can be convicted? In this case it so confused the jury that they found no verdict but actually when a prosecution cannot prove the case, they are supposed to find the person innocent whatever their private thoughts on the matter may be.

TheDoctrineOfSciAndNatureClub Thu 21-Feb-13 10:36:37

Tiggy, is there an analogy with murder/'manslaughter? So say I admit to killing Fred Bloggs but my defence is that I was of unsound mind at the time, then unless the prosecution can refute that defence, I cannot be found guilty of murder (though in that case might be found guilty of a lesser charge eg manslaughter)?

EmmelineGoulden Thu 21-Feb-13 10:37:45

No tiggy. It use to be the case that a woman was presumed to have been coerced, and the prosecution had to prove that she wasn't. But the law changed, now if a wife wants to claim marital coercion she has to prove she was legally married and that he was present at the time and that she was coerced to a standard of the balance of probabilities.

That's the bit fo the statute that says "it shall be a good defence to prove that the offence was committed in the presence of, and under the coercion of, the husband". Defences in law are up to the defence to prove, the presumption is that it didn't happen unless it can be proved. The prosecution ought to be presenting evidence that contradicts her assertion of coercion if they have any though.

Xenia Thu 21-Feb-13 10:40:53

We certainly need to encourage juries to ask questions and not to be put off and mocked for doing so. Some of their questions did not seem too unusual. They are just a bunch normal women (most of them are female) and if they are asking some questions which show some of them do not have the first idea they might have put that one forward (the rest of them who realised the question was an iidiot one) it might have been because they could not get that one juror to shut up about the issue or accept the views of the others so they had to put it to the judge to get it settled.

I wonder if she did agree to obey her husband in the marriage vows.

tiggytape Thu 21-Feb-13 10:48:48

The prosecution ought to be presenting evidence that contradicts her assertion of coercion if they have any though.

But what if they don't?
What if the prosecution have no compelling evidence that contradicts an assertion of coercion?
Is the person who says they were coerced guilty or innocent in that case?

BerylStreep Thu 21-Feb-13 10:50:05

It's on the balance of probabilities then - have the defence presented evidence that shows it is more likely than not to have occurred?

TheDoctrineOfSciAndNatureClub Thu 21-Feb-13 10:50:43

YY Xenia. I have served on a jury and we were encouraged by the clerk to send any questions to the judge - which did include a query about why a specific person mentioned by both prosecution and defence was not present in court. I think a lot of questions sound like " stupid" questions when reported but no-one wanted to make a mistake on something fundamental - I think that made us cautious, not idiots. And our case was more straightforward than this one, where there is on this thread and therefore presunably in the wider workd, a lack of clarity about burden of proof.

cumfy Thu 21-Feb-13 10:56:16

I agree with Xenia.

To my mind the jury questions are entirely reasonable, and the judge has screwed up completely and misdirected the jury in several matters.

For instance, re the marriage vows; the fact that CH and VP took vows is a common knowledge fact that the jury are entirely entitled to consider, and counsel and the judge have rather short-sightedly overlooked.

The judge should have directed that her marriage vows, whilst being a relevant consideration, absolutely do not extend to obeying instructions to break the law; not the utter fuckwittery he came out with saying it was irrelevant as she hadn't raised it in evidence.

cumfy Thu 21-Feb-13 10:58:11

Xpost Doctrineblush

tiggytape Thu 21-Feb-13 11:17:45

cumfy - the reason the judge was dismissive about the vows is that nobody mentioned them in court. Nobody said she fely compelled to obey because of any wedding vow so the judge was cross that the jury were even discussing this point.
Yes we all know they took vows but a jury is not supposed to discuss things 'we all know' just things that are mentioned in the court room. Anything else they know has to be disregarded.

If they had followed the judges directions, they should only have been considering whether the prosecution had proved that she wasn't coerced and acted willingly. Some people here seem to be saying the judge was wrong to say this but that's another matter. The jury yesterday were asked to decide if the prosecution had proved she wasn't coerced but they seemed determined to extend their decision making way beyond what they actually heard in court.

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