Huhne court hearing turns into a pantomime for press
Former cabinet minister tried to avoid sitting in the dock and ignored his ex-wife
FORMER cabinet minister Chris Huhne appeared in court with his ex-wife Vicky Pryce yesterday charged with perverting the course of justice, and if the Lib Dem MP was hoping the appearance would pass off without incident he was mistaken.
There was more than a hint of schadenfreude in the media coverage as what should have been a routine pre-trial hearing at Westminster magistrates turned into something of a pantomime. Although the hearing lasted only six minutes, it gave the press corps plenty to write about.
"The appearance began badly for the Lib Dem MP, who, on arrival at the court... tried to enter through the wrong door," recorded The Daily Telegraph. "Face to face with a barrage of cameras, he was ushered through the correct door by a police officer before grumbling about the photographers to his legal team."
Huhne and his former wife, who he left in 2010 for press agent Carina Trimingham, are facing charges of perverting the course of justice. After they split, a vengeful Pryce claimed that in 2003 Huhne convinced her to take penalty points on his behalf to avoid losing his licence over a speeding offence.
The couple are plainly not speaking and, anxious to avoid the intimacy of the dock, sat in the well of the court, “seemingly confident that they would not be treated like alleged criminals," as the Daily Mail put it.
However, District Judge Howard Riddle was not impressed, and told them: "The rule in this court is that defendants, whoever they are and whatever process they come into the court by, are in the dock."
After being forced to take seats, "they sat as far away from each other as possible — about 10 feet," according to The Times. While The Guardian revealed that the pair "did not exchange glances or speak".
Finally, when Huhne tried to leave he needed the help of seven police officers to make his way through the media scrum.
Be prepared for similar coverage when the couple appear again at Southwark Crown Court on 2 March.