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No verdict on ex-wife in case that toppled UK minister


LONDON, Feb 20 (Reuters) - A British jury failed to reach a verdict on Wednesday on Vicky Pryce, who is accused of perverting the course of justice by helping her then husband, politician Chris Huhne, dodge a driving ban in 2003.

Huhne, a Liberal Democrat who resigned from his cabinet post as energy secretary in February 2012 when he and Pryce were both charged over the 2003 deception, pleaded guilty to the charge two weeks ago. He is awaiting his sentence.

The allegation against the estranged pair was that they had falsely informed police that she was driving his car when it was flashed by a speed camera. She had taken penalty points on her licence which, if he had taken them, would have resulted in a six-month ban.

Pryce, a former joint head of the British government's economic service, had pleaded not guilty on the grounds of "marital coercion". She argued Huhne had forced her to take his points.

The jury at London's Southwark Crown Court said they were unable to agree on a verdict on Pryce and were discharged. The prosecution will seek a retrial.

Huhne and Pryce's 26-year marriage broke down in bitter acrimony in 2010 when Huhne left his wife for a younger, bisexual woman, and the details were splashed all over the newspapers.

Months later, Pryce told two newspapers about the 2003 points deception in what the prosecution at her trial described as an act of revenge designed to destroy Huhne's career. The first media reports about the points appeared in May 2011 and the police then started investigating the matter. (Reporting by Estelle Shirbon; editing by Stephen Addison)