R v Huhne and Pryce – Sentencing hearing
Southwark Crown Court
11 February 2013, 2pm
Mr Justice Sweeney
Chris Huhne and Vicky Pryce were warned to be under no illusion as to the sentence they would likely receive when sentenced. This means they are going to receive custodial sentences.
The Court of Appeal have said that this offence should always lead to a custodial sentence ‘in all but the most exceptional circumstances’.
But how long? Well let’s first look at Huhne. He pleaded guilty, on the day of trial. Here is our explanation of the usual way in which credit for a guilty plea is calculated.
Based on that, one may think he is entitled to no more than 10%. However, based on his abuse of process applications (for an explanation, see here) it may be that Huhne is entitled to more. It will not have been Chris Huhne’s decision to have the abuse of process applications immediately before the trial and so it could be argued that his late plea is not a consequence of his persistent denials of guilt. Consequently, it may be said on his behalf that he would have pleaded guilty earlier, had the abuse applications been heard sooner. If Mr Kelsey-Fry is feeling cheeky, he may even argue that Huhne had the right to make the abuse applications and upon their determination (against him) pleaded at the first reasonable opportunity. Such an argument is unlikely to succeed. He may receive 20% credit – but it is difficult to predict.
Turning to Vicky Pryce, she did not plead guilty and so she receives no such credit. She was obviously less culpable than Huhne, who instigated the offence, and gained nothing from the offence.
Perhaps Huhne and Pryce could end up with the same sentence – the 20% credit for plea wiping out the uplift for being the driving force behind the offence.
The persistent denials have certainly done them no favours.
My personal view is that 9 months would be appropriate, however, on the authorities, it may be that 6 months is more in keeping with sentencing practice.
Of course, there is much to be said in mitigation – how much both of them have lost, personally and professionally, and so the range would appear to be from 4 months (any shorter would not mark the seriousness of the offence) to 16 months (any longer would certainly trouble the Court of Appeal.