12 March, 2013

The guilty and not so guilty

In the sometimes confused case of former Cabinet Minister Chris Huhne and his former wife Vicky Pryce the sentence has finally been handed down (by the way, BBC News Channel, a sentence is handed 'down', not 'out'): they each receive a prison sentence of eight months.

I suppose the crime of perverting the course of justice must be taken seriously. I also do not believe the argument that if someone is rich and in the public eye they can be said to have suffered enough merely in the press coverage. They must be punished the same as everyone else.

However, this really doesn't look right to me. She agreed to take his speeding points. Finish. A survey by Churchill Insurance reveals that nearly half a million people have done just this, to avoid one of them getting a ban. Strangely, the State sends you a note asking who was driving the car; that is to say you are asked to incriminate yourself, which is against natural justice. They can hardly be surprised when so many people decline to incriminate themselves in this way.

Normally in a court for someone to be found guilty there has to be some evidence against them, and I can't help feeling that it should be the same with speeding as with any other crime. But the state failed even to try to collect any evidence as to who was driving. It looks as if the whole system has been fiddled, just to cover up inadequacies in the prosecution.

Then we come to the crime of Huhne and Pryce. 'Perverting the course of justice' seems like a frightfully pompous way of describing her taking his speeding points. It is the term used for bribing a judge or nobbling a jury.

Really, the only people well served by all this are newspaper proprietors. The political editor of the Sunday Times, Isabel Oakshott, even shopped her source for the story, Ms Pryce, to the police, so as to get maximum coverage.

The couple should have been given a hefty fine and banned from driving for a year or two.

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