British MP's speeding ticket opens scandal

British MP

It began mundanely enough with a speeding violation 10 years ago. But it escalated, through the tangled, explosive passions of a failed marriage and one partner's new love affair, into one of the most tawdry political scandals Britain has seen in years.

And it has claimed the political career of an ambitious cabinet minister, Chris Huhne, a Liberal Democrat who resigned his position as energy and climate change secretary. He now finds himself facing a prison sentence.

Huhne's former wife, Vicky Pryce, may go to prison, too, if a verdict expected this week finds her guilty of perverting the course of justice by falsely certifying that she, and not her husband, was the driver who had been speeding. Huhne (pronounced HEWN) pleaded guilty to the offence in the trial.

The trial veered far from the speeding offence, into intimate details of the couple's family life. The court has heard that Pryce, 60, twice faced demands from her husband that she have an abortion, and that she acceded the first time. It has been told of her fury and humiliation when Huhne, 58, left her for a female political aide, Carina Trimingham.

The justification given in court for venturing so deeply into the couple's family life was that Pryce had employed the rarely used "marital coercion" defence, adopted into English law in 1925. Using this plea, a woman can't be found guilty of any crime other than treason or murder if she can show she committed it under coercion from her husband.

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