Five lessons of the Huhne-Pryce case
1. Speeding is serious and perverting the course of justice more so because it is fundamental to the rule of law. But the law on speeding in this country is bad law. Any legal system that depends on marital breakdown for its enforcement has something wrong with it. A survey has suggested that 500,000 people have given their points to someone else. Respect for the law is undermined if people think “everyone does it” and only a few “unlucky” people such as Huhne and Pryce get caught out.
Would it not make sense for points to be allocated to the vehicle and its one registered owner? Then “who was driving” becomes irrelevant: the owner is responsible. Rich people could buy another car in someone else’s name, I suppose, but that would at least boost the economy, like a version of the car scrappage scheme.
2. The marital coercion defence, available only to women, has to go.
3. Exemplary custodial sentences are expensive and unnecessary. If the stigma of prison is the deterrent, a week would do. Otherwise, make them do something valuable for the country.
4. Why call it eight months if it isn’t? Why not call it two months, and have reporters outside the court explain that this means two additional months tagged on curfew and a possible four more months for bad behaviour? Sentences that aren’t what they say they are undermine respect for the law too.
5. Court procedures are slow and inefficient. I lost count of the number of times Huhne and Pryce had to turn up to one court or another and confirm their names and addresses, while court officials were paid to go through these pointless rituals. I am amazed that the Crown Prosecution Service costs disclosed in court today were as low as £79,000 for Huhne and £38,000 for Pryce, but the total cost to the taxpayer of this sad case was far higher than it need have been.
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