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Ex-wife of former British minister goes on trial

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The ex-wife of former British minister Chris Huhne went on trial on Tuesday accused of taking speeding points for him, a day after Huhne was warned he faced jail over the incident.

Vicky Pryce, a Greek-born economist, denies a charge of perverting the course of justice, claiming she was coerced into taking the penalty points from her then husband in March 2003.

Huhne, the former minister for energy and climate change, had been due to stand trial on the same charge alongside his ex-wife but on Monday changed his plea from not guilty to guilty.

The ambitious Liberal Democrat politician, who quit Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron's coalition cabinet last year vowing to clear his name, is now awaiting sentencing, with a jail term likely.

Huhne's car was allegedly caught by a speed camera as he travelled between Stansted Airport near London and the capital.

The prosecution alleges that Pryce, 60, falsely informed police that she was driving the car at the time of the speeding offence so Huhne could avoid losing his driving licence.

Opening the trial, prosecutor Andrew Edis said Pryce had revealed details about the points-swapping in 2010 and 2011 when she found out her husband was having an affair.

"There is no doubt at all that Ms Pryce was distressed. But there is also no doubt at all that she was not only distressed but extremely angry and she wanted some revenge," the lawyer told the court.

"And her revenge was in the end to pass the story about the 2003 crime to the newspapers so that it would be published in the end, that it would destroy her husband's career."

The jury was told of an email exchange between a Sunday Times journalist and Pryce in which they discussed how to publicise the points affair.

Pryce wrote that "I really want to nail him" and the journalist assured her that the revelation would bring Huhne down. However, she warned of a risk to Pryce of criminal proceedings over her own role.

In procedural hearings before Huhne made his guilty plea, the court heard details of text messages sent between the former minister and his then 18-year-old son in which the teenager urged his father to admit his wrongdoing.

In exchanges that showed Peter Huhne's anger about his father's adultery, the son wrote: "We all know you were driving. Accept it or face the consequences. You've told me that was the case. Or will this be another lie?"

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130205/ex-wife-former-british-minister-goes-trial