UK minister resigns over penalty points row

Friday 03 February 2012 22.33
Chris Huhne has been charged with perverting the course of justice
Chris Huhne has been charged with perverting the course of justice

UK Energy Secretary Chris Huhne has resigned from Cabinet over allegations that he asked his ex-wife to take a speeding penalty for him.

The Liberal Democrat MP has been charged with perverting the course of justice after an investigation into the 2003 incident by Essex Police.

His former wife, economist Vicky Pryce is also facing charges of perverting the course of justice.

They are due to appear before Westminster Magistrates' Court on 16 February.

Speaking at his London home less than an hour after the decision to prosecute was announced, Mr Huhne, 57, said he was quitting David Cameron's cabinet in order to fight to clear his name.

"I am innocent of these charges and I intend to fight this in the courts and I am confident that a jury will agree," he said.

Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer said a criminal complaint was made to Essex Police in May 2011, alleging Ms Pryce had accepted responsibility for a speeding offence committed by Mr Huhne in 2003.

"That complaint was investigated by Essex Police and a file was passed to the CPS in late July 2011. The CPS advised that further investigations should be made, including obtaining certain material from a national newspaper," he said.

"Those further investigations were made and, in October 2011, an order was made for the newspaper to produce material to the police.

"The newspaper appealed that order, as it was entitled to do, but subsequently consented to producing the material in question just before the appeal was due to be heard, on 20 January this year.

"All the available evidence, including the new material, has now been carefully considered by the CPS and we have concluded that there is sufficient evidence to bring criminal charges against Mr Huhne and Ms Pryce for perverting the course of justice.

"The essence of the charges is that between March and May 2003, Mr Huhne, having allegedly committed a speeding offence, falsely informed the investigating authorities that Ms Pryce had been the driver of the vehicle in question, and she falsely accepted that she was the driver.

"Accordingly, summonses against both Mr Huhne and Ms Pryce have been obtained from Westminster Magistrates' Court and those summonses will now be served on them. They are due to appear in court on 16 February this year."

There was no immediate reaction from Downing Street to Mr Starmer's announcement.