UPDATE 1-Fallen British minister, ex-wife jailed over speeding lie

* Tale of revenge, adultery gripped British public

* Family feud played out in British media

By Estelle Shirbon

LONDON, March 11 (Reuters) - Disgraced former British energy minister Chris Huhne was jailed for eight months on Monday for lying to police about a speeding offence in a bizarre tale of adultery and revenge that gripped the British public.

Huhne's ex-wife Vicky Pryce, a prominent economist, also was jailed for eight months for her role in the deception.

Prior to the scandal, Huhne, 58, had been seen as a potential leader of the Liberal Democrats, junior partners of the Conservatives in Britain's ruling coalition government.

The pair falsely informed police that Vicky Pryce was driving Huhne's car when it was caught by a speed camera, so that he could avoid a driving ban.

The incident remained a family secret for years but came back to haunt Huhne after he left Pryce for his mistress, Carina Trimingham, in 2010. Pryce told two newspapers about the 2003 deception in an act of revenge that landed both Huhne and herself in the dock.

The estranged pair sat side-by-side in the glass-walled dock during the lengthy sentencing hearing, but did not make eye contact. Trimingham sat in the public gallery in the packed courtroom.


"Any element of tragedy is entirely your own fault," Judge Nigel Sweeney told them. "You have fallen from a great height."

He told Pryce she had been driven by an "implacable desire for revenge".

Huhne resigned as energy secretary in February 2012, when he and Pryce were both charged with perverting the course of justice. He spent the best part of a year fighting a costly legal battle to get the charge against him thrown out.

That attempt failed when Judge Sweeney ruled at the end of January that Huhne should face trial. Huhne initially pleaded not guilty, but a week later, on the morning the trial was due to start, he stunned Britain by changing his plea to guilty.

Pryce, 60, pleaded not guilty. She admitted taking Huhne's speeding penalty but put forward an archaic defence of "marital coercion", arguing that Huhne had bullied her into it.

A first jury failed to agree on a verdict on Pryce, but after a retrial a second jury convicted her last Thursday.

Pryce's trial revealed how, after Huhne left her, she spent six months plotting with journalists to try and get the story of the 2003 speeding deception into the papers in a way that would damage Huhne without exposing her.

"I definitely want to nail him," Pryce wrote to one journalist in a March 2011 email that was read out in court. (Reporting by Estelle Shirbon; editing by Michael Holden and Michael Roddy)