Constance Briscoe Sentenced – 16 months in prison

Constance Briscoe Sentenced – 16 months in prison

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From The Guardian
From The Guardian

Introduction

On 1st May 2014 Constance Briscoe, a barrister and Recorder (part-time Judge) was convicted of three offences of Perverting the Course of Justice and bailed overnight for sentence to be passed.

We commented that it was an inevitable custodial sentence, in the order of 18 months. How did we do?

 

Sentence

The sentencing remarks are now available. We know that the Judge sentenced her to 16 months in prison, so we were not that far off the mark.The posts that we had linked to set out the various sentencing decisions that the Judge would have looked at (which is what we based our prediction on).

This is a serious offence which almost always leads to a prison sentence. Here, there were a lot of personal circumstances that were good mitigating features, but these would be far outweighed by the seriousness of the offences.

There had been speculation as to whether Ms Briscoe’s job as a barrister would have made the Judge go easier on her. It wouldn’t, if anything, it goes the other way. She, of all people, should have known that this was wrong. Also, Judges are aware that when they are sentencing ‘one of their own’ are acutely aware that the public are looking at them to see if they are lenient, and this often leads to a sentence higher than one would otherwise get.

 

What next for Ms Briscoe?

Her legal career is finished – there is no way that she will be allow to practice after this.

Famously, in 2008 she won a libel trial brought by her mother in relation to her books. It has already been announced that this will be re-investigated.

Chris Huhne took the conviction of Ms Briscoe with less than good grace and sympathy, saying – “Constance Briscoe has been revealed as a compulsive and self-publicising fantasist. British justice is likely to be a lot fairer with Briscoe behind bars. If she can make up the witness statement used as the key evidence against me, she is clearly capable of hiding evidence she should have disclosed to the defence in the many cases that she prosecuted for the Crown Prosecution Service. Aggrieved defendants will now seek a CPS review.

Whilst Mr Huhne may not particularly have the moral high ground, one can understand why he feels a bit aggrieved in the circumstances. Is he right that there will be a raft of convictions being found unsafe?

Probably not. The Courts are generally very reluctant to go over old cases, and there was a warning last week from the Court of Appeal that this will be even harder in future. For any case to be successful actual prejudice would have to be shown – a situation where Ms Briscoe deliberately withheld evidence or lied to the Court (as two examples), to the detriment of a defendant. Similarly with case that she sat as a Judge over. This is very difficult from such a distance of time, and even if some failing can be picked out, a defendant would need to show that this may have impacted on the verdict – a very high task.

Having said that, it is understandable that people who were prosecuted, defended or sentenced by Ms Briscoe may feel slightly aggrieved.

 

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Dan is a barrister at 2 Dr. Johnson’s Buildings practising in crime.

14 COMMENTS

  1. I know that any offence which threatens the “justice system” is serious but I still feel very sorry for this woman who has thrown away her career to support a friend. Mr Huhne’s comments are appalling and having served a prison sentence he should not wish this on another person.

    • Feel sorry for what, Constance Briscoe, did you forget to take your meds, please this Constance Briscoe has disgraced herself and the profession grossly all the cases she presided over will have to be looked at at as well as the libel case about the ‘abuse’ she claims she suffered as a child, dishonest lying judges is something britain can do without.

  2. She supported a friend like the lookout or the getaway driver supports the armed robber. I don’t like Huhne but he has every right to say what he did.

  3. I used to hold this woman in high regard. I looked up to her as a role mode. I am Black (not British but I reside in Britain). It is my ambition to become a solicitor and I regarded her as my hero. She allegedly triumphed over adversity and I am actually devastated at this turn of events. She is a disappointment to her family, to her country as well as to people such as myself who really believed in her. I met her once when I was observing proceedings in court. When I saw her in the Robing Room, I knew who she was immediately. That was one of the happiest days of my life because this brilliant woman took the time to speak to me. I do feel sorry for her children – I do not know what it is like to have a parent in jail.

    I used to look up to Constance Briscoe. I once viewed her as a leading legal figure and I wanted to be like her. Not anymore. I read both of her sob story books. Now the books are not even well-suited for the Bargain Bin – they belong in the rubbish bin.

  4. Mr Huhne, is the one responsible for this whole fiasco. 3 people himself included, will endure the ordeal of a prison sentence. If he had told the truth to begin with, and took responsibility for HIS actions of driving over the speed limit, instead of being cowardly and self absorbed with his public image, ruthless ambition, and self preservation, in the face of his own act of breaking the law by driving his car beyond the lawful speed limit. Then that being the caee this discussion would not be taking place. HE LIED, he started the ball rolling with his arrogance and cowardice preferring that his wife’s name be sullied and her reputation marred for HIS unlawful actions. His best response would have been no comment, rather than getting on his moral high horse, a position that he has no credibility to mount. His wife willing went along with being the sacrifical lamb to relieve him of the public onslaught slaughter, real or imagined that he so obviously feared, as only fear could drive any decent and respectable man, let alone an upstanding member of parliament, to allow his wife/partner to endure such an ordeal of lying to the court of the land. She willing lied to the UK court committing perjury to “stand by her man” and she maintained the lie until the marital harmony turned to discord, and her steadfast belief in husbands ambition and reputation being greater than own unravelled. She then on reflection decided the “truth” needed to be told, there is nothing more dangerous than a woman scorned. Mr & Mrs Huhne deceived themselves and they were both arrogant enough to believe they were above the law because of the positions they both held in society. I do not in no way condone the act of lying from anyone placed in a position of trust, but it beggars belief that Mrs Huhne brought Constance Briscoe into her web of marital lies to save her husband when it suited her, and now she is paying double the price of what they paid for the crime THEY MR and MRS huhne plotted, planned and executed in sound mind together. I am not privy to what ensued
    in those meetings with Constance Briscoe and Mrs Huhne nor what conversations were held or words spoken. However, It is my understanding that .a barrister or solicitor seeks to act in the best interest of their client.How can we be so sure that Constance Briscoe lied? based on whose evidence that of Mrs Huhne? The Police?. The courts have found her guilty so we have to accept the verdict, but is the case that black and white?
    Comments that she has set the law profession back, for those blacks wishing to enter it, almost borders on double jeopardy, and is indicative of most black professionals innate collective sense, that when one black person makes a bad choice or action, it reflects on all black people. How so? Has there not been caucasians who have brought the law into disrepute, but how often do we hear the cry of caucasians saying this has set them back? We don’t. Constance Briscoe may very well have blurred the lines of acting in the best interests of her client and this act has cost her dearly. 16 months in prison and her prestigious law career in tatters, with talk of re-investigations of past cases due to her actions in the Huhne case. Yes, she was bestowed the heavy burden and very high office of upholding the law as a barrister and a part-time judge, and i am sure that is a hard path to tread, unfortunately in the Huhne case she has sadly been found wanting, and found guilty of perverting the course of justice. But lest not forget the path she travelled and the heights to which she rose in the law as a prominent black female judge and barrister, a beacon of hope for all those who came behind her and who are still comin. In spite of her fall from grace her ascension required talent, courage, tenacity, will, political acumen, intelligence, self belief, ambition, strength in the face of adversity, grace and perhaps a little luck and fortune along the way. If we remember it is not the mistakes we make but how we learn from them that matters the most, then i have no doubt that if Jeffery Archer can reinvent himself there is hope for Constance Briscoe too. We should not count her out and villify her whole career in totality for her actions in the Huhne case, for that would be a narrow view to take of woman, a black woman no less who against all the odds made it to the very top of a profession that is predominately white male dominated and priveleged, from very humble beginnings. While saddened by the outcome of the case and her sentence i can still find it within myself to to doff my cap to her for all that she achieved, one lie does not a liar make. I am sure she rues the day she laid eyes on Mrs Huhne and in retrospect wishes she handled the case differently. Sadly, the law deals with evidence, not wishes nor reflection or remorse after the facts, but there are so many losers for Mr Huhnes’ “Darling would you mind lying so that i can win” that for some strange reason, the 18th century colloquial phrase “the law is an ass” keeps popping into my mind. Arrogance has been the word used to describe Constance’s actions to pervert the course of justice, but it was the arrogance of one person who thought they were above the law that started this whole disastrous chain of events and we cannot lose sight of this in any of our judgements of the parties who became embroilled in this web of lies. The lie served only one person but cost many. The words that linger are sadness and empathy for two women whose lives have been destroyed forever for a speeding fine cover-up, that uncovered their human frailities as a wife, barrister and judge, to a unforgiving world that demanded and expected so much more of them…

    • Where to begin with this farrago of nonsense?

      Huhne was the First Cause of all this misery: that much is correct.

      But Pryce went along with it – she was not coerced.

      And Briscoe was not her lawyer so Pryce was not her client. She could have stayed out of it.

      And finally “the law is an ass” is from Dickens, a man of the nineteenth century!

  5. Farrago – ‘Mismash, jumble, medley, assortment of nonesense’ clearly a matter of individual opinion on another individuals opinion which we are all freely entitled to voice and articulate. within the context of our right to freedom of speech.

    Why did Pryce go along with it? the coercion is implied by her marital status to a MP, and is not an unusual action of a spouse, who makes such choices that they consider, are in the best interests of their spouses career and their shared life. In this particular case Vicky Pryce’s actions may be considered for some to be quite extreme, bu to my mind, it is not unusual nor outlandish that she made the choices she did to save her husbands skin. The question that has to considered is, had they not been married or a couple is it likely she would have taken the actions she did?

    Chris Huhne was the instigator, catalyst and the person accountable this catalogue of misery, so our opinions are equal on this point at least.

    Constance Briscoe not acting in the role of lawyer for Vicky Pryce and was therefore not acting in the best interest of her client, (the action of which should not condone lying when in the position of high office as a custodian of the law), for reasons known only to herself and Vicky Pryce decided to act in her friends best interest. This is something that now on reflection sitting in a prision cell, i am certain that she undoubtedly regrets, and wishes that she had weighed more judiciously the consequence of such actions for the benefit of a friend, to the cost to her life and career.
    .
    I am not as stated previously, condoning lies or justfying lies from individuals to which high office has been bestowed, i am however, stating that i do not think it is as black or white as some of the commentary implies.

    Whilst Constance Briscoe may not be a heroine in this sorry tale neither is she the villianess of the piece, she perhaps did make some questionable choices and decisions when she should have known better, Vicky Pryce too.

    However, we must not lose sight of the real villian who committed the crime and sought to get away with it. Two women have paid a very high price for a crime they did not commit, but one for which they for reasons known only to themselves became accesorries to.

    Can any of of us say with absolute certaintly and truth that we have not made questionable choices in our lives, for those we love or care about, in the misguided belief we were acting in their best interests?

    Finally, thank you for correcting my ‘typo’ error of the phrase “The law is an ass” it is, as you correctly state a Dickens 19th not 18th century one.

    I will therefore,in the future, ensure that i proof my writing before submitting to any public domain as this was not the only typing error of my written piece.

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