Chris Huhne and Vicky Pryce; the real tragedy

Chris Huhne and Vicky Pryce; the real tragedy

The Jury has decided. Both are guilty. The Judge has passed sentence; Prison for both. Vicky Pryce’s defence of marital coercion was rejected.

He/they should never have broken the law.

They have wasted a lot of public money and judicial time by not owning up properly at the beginning. That Judicial time means that other cases have taken longer to deal with. Somewhere in the system, the time could have been allocated to allow a case concerning a child to be dealt with more quickly. Police time could have been used to investigate people who are a danger to children, or protecting victims of domestic violence.

Sadly they compounded their original dishonesty by playing out their acrimonious divorce in public. They were married for 26 years of marriage. They have 3 children together. Some of the personal communications involving at least one of their children formed part of the evidence. It is tragic for any child to have to witness their parents in the dock and to be drawn into their dispute.

The Court was told that the cost of Huhne’s prosecution was £79,015 and £38,544 for Pryce’s. Prosecutors were also seeking to recover an extra £31,000 from Huhne for public costs connected to his attempts to get the case thrown out and the extra investigation this entailed. Huhne would seem to have had the means to try to get the case thrown out of court, when he knew he was guilty all along.

But we are fast approaching 1 April 2013. Swingeing cuts to legal aid are being brought in by a Government of which Huhne was a member.

It is worth repeating the Law Society Press Release of 5 March 2013 entitled “Law Society response to Lord Neuberger’s fears about people taking the law into their own hands” which was published in response to reported concerns of the UK’s most senior Judge, Lord Neuberger.

“The Law Society today backed Lord Neuberger, the president of the Supreme Court, who aired fears about the fact that from next month thousands of people will no longer have access to free legal advice after the government withdraws funding for numerous categories of civil and family law. Lord Neuberger said his main worry was that those frustrated by an inability to seek justice would ‘take the law into their own hands’.

Responding to Lord Neuberger’s concerns, Richard Miller, head of Legal Aid at the Law Society, said:

‘We echo Lord Neuberger’s fears about people taking the law into their own hands as a result of an inability to seek justice following the government’s civil legal aid cuts. He has spelled out exactly what we’ve been saying for a very long time; there is clear evidence that the government’s civil legal aid cuts will cause significant knock-on costs within the legal aid budget, across the rest of the Ministry, and in other government departments. They could easily cost the taxpayer more than they save.

‘King’s College research findings, commissioned by the Law Society and published in January last year, showed that cutting access to justice for people on low incomes is a devastating false economy. As well as all the knock-on costs, the social consequences will be damaging to the whole of society, not just the vulnerable who will take the worst hit of all. The Law Society has previously suggested alternative savings that would make a bigger contribution to reducing the deficit by making the civil justice system more efficient, but the government chose to ignore this.

‘The biggest regret is that Lord Neuberger’s warning has generated so much attention, just weeks ahead of these cuts being implemented, whereas similar warnings, from many quarters before and during the Parliamentary process during which these cuts were introduced, went largely ignored by government.’”

Access to Justice is a fundamental part of a democratic society. Legal Aid is an important, but neglected part of our welfare state. After 1st April many hard working people will not be able to access the Courts with professional representation. Perhaps the real tragedy is the personal one for the children of Huhne and Pryce, and the coming one for hundreds of thousands who will soon feel the effects of the Legal Aid cuts being brought in by the Government of which Huhne was a member, and those who may have been helped by better use of the time wasted by the case being fought as long as it was.

Chris Huhne and Vicky Pryce; the real tragedy

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