In the Spring of 2003 Chris Huhne persuaded his then wife, Vicky Pryce, to take his speeding points. This seemingly minor act would come back to haunt them ten years later. It’s effect went further than them and one of the major casualties was Constance Briscoe.
On 1 May 2014 she was convicted of three count of perverting the course of justice.
This is a very quick look just after the verdict is announced. We will look at this in more detail when the dust has settled and Ms Briscoe is sentenced.
Ms Briscoe was originally charged with two offences of Perverting the Course of Justice :
Between 16 May 2011 and 6 October 2012 you with intent to pervert the course of public justice, did a series of acts which had a tendency to pervert the course of public justice, in that you provided the police with two statements which were inaccurate.
On 6 October 2012 you with intent to pervert the course of public justice, did an act which had a tendency to pervert the course of public justice, in that you produced a copy of your witness statement that had been altered and maintained that it was the correct version of that statement.
A third charge was added during the proceedings that related to the falsification of a document.
In 2011 when the police were investigating the Huhne case they took two witness statements from Ms Briscoe (a neighbour). In this she indicated that she ‘held them in the same regard’ and that she had not had any contact ‘whatsoever’ with the press. This was incorrect in that Ms Briscoe was a confidant of Ms Pryce and was discussing matters with the Mail on Sunday.
When “Ms Briscoe was later interviewed by police following her arrest, she pointed out an alteration in her statement, claiming it changed the meaning, the court was told”.
This triggered the third allegation. A copy of the statement was given to an expert witness instructed by Ms Briscoe’s legal team and it was alleged that the wrong one was deliberately handed to the expert in order to get favourable evidence.
The Prosecutor was quoted as saying (when she opened the case to the jury) “the criminal offences she is charged with all arise … out of what the prosecution say is Ms Briscoe acting deliberately: a) to hide what she was really up to when the police asked her about it; b) giving the police misleading information and; c) later on trying to manipulate both the police and the court during an investigation into Ms Briscoe’s own actions“”
Ms Briscoe accepted being an intermediary between Ms Pryce and the Mail on Sunday, but stated that the relevant part of the statement had been added by the Police by the mistake.
Why is she called a ‘top Judge’?
This appears to be an unwritten rule of journalism. Any barrister must be reported in the press as a ‘top brief/barrister/lawyer’, and most often a QC (even if they’re not). For the same reason, there’s no such thing as a mere ‘judge’, everyone is a top judge. It’s just one of those things – I don’t make the rules.
Perverting the course of justice almost always results in a custodial sentence (see the factsheet above). Vicky Pryce got 8 months and this would appear to be, on the fact of it, far more serious than that. The fact that Ms Briscoe is a lawyer will not help her (if anything, it aggravates it).
Barring some exceptional circumstance, it would seem quite clear that the result will be a custodial sentence. Based on the seriousness of the offences, we would expect the court to start at somewhere in the region of 18 months, before considering any mitigation.
She will be sentenced on Friday 2 May 2014.
What happens next for her?
She will be sentenced shortly and will not doubt be considering an appeal. We’ll have a look at the case in more detail shortly. Her legal career is finished following this conviction.
There are instances of Judges being found guilty of criminal offences (common assault as an example and, more recently, failing to control a dog), but this is in a different league. It is also, as far as we know, the first time a Judge in England and Wales has been convicted of Perverting the Course of Justice.