Briscoe facing jail for police lies

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A disgraced barrister and part-time judge was facing jail tonight after being found guilty of lying to police investigating the Chris Huhne speeding points scandal.

Constance Briscoe was accused of trying to pervert the course of justice in connection with the investigation into how disgraced Cabinet minister Mr Huhne passed speeding points to his then-wife Vicky Pryce a decade ago.

Briscoe, 56, of Clapham, south London, has been suspended since her arrest in October 2012 and could now be barred from sitting as a judge.

Following her conviction, it emerged she is also facing a criminal investigation into allegations that she fraudulently obtained documents used to defend libel claims brought against her by her mother, Carmen Briscoe-Mitchell, who sat in the court throughout her daughter's Old Bailey trial.

Dressed smartly in black, Briscoe stood impassively in the dock as the jury found her guilty of all three counts of intending to pervert the course of justice after just five hours of deliberations.

Adjourning sentencing until tomorrow, judge Mr Justice Baker warned her: "It's almost inevitable there will be a custodial sentence."

After the verdict, Mr Huhne, who was forced to resign over the speeding points scandal, released a statement in which he described Briscoe as a "compulsive and self-publicising fantasist".

He declared: "British justice is likely to be a lot fairer with Briscoe behind bars.

"If I had not forced the disclosure that was then used to convict Briscoe, she would never have been brought to justice."

He said: "If she can make up the witness statements 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."

But the CPS said there were no plans to review any of Briscoe's cases as prosecution counsel and Huhne's claim was incorrect.

A CPS spokesperson said: "This assumption is wrong and based on a misunderstanding of the disclosure process. While external counsel might be asked to provide advice or to view material, the final decision on what must be disclosed to the defence lies with the CPS and is overseen by a CPS in-house lawyer."

Detective Inspector John McDermott, of Kent Police, welcomed the verdict, saying it showed no one was "above the law".

He said: "In her roles as a recorder judge and as a barrister, if anyone should understand the importance of preserving public justice, it should be Constance Briscoe."

"The overwhelming evidence uncovered by officers meant the jury had no choice but to find Ms Briscoe guilty. Today shows that no one is above the law and perverting the course of justice is a serious offence."

The Judicial Conduct Investigations Office (JCIO) announced it would be preparing a report on whether Briscoe should be removed from the judiciary.

A spokeman said: "Following today's verdict at the Central Criminal Court, the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office will invite Ms Briscoe to make representations as to why she should not be removed from the judiciary.

"A report will then be submitted to the Lord Chief Justice and Lord Chancellor for their consideration."

Briscoe was unanimously found guilty on all charges. The first alleged that, between May 16 2011 and October 6 2012, Briscoe provided police with two inaccurate statements, and the second that on October 6 2012 she produced an altered copy of a statement but claimed it was the correct version.

A third charge alleged that between October 5 2012 and October 8 last year she deliberately got a document expert to view the wrong version of her witness statement.

Briscoe stood trial at London's Southwark Crown Court in January but a jury failed to reach verdicts on any of the counts.

A re-trial was ordered, which has been heard at the Old Bailey.

Jurors were told that Briscoe helped economist Ms Pryce, who was a friend and also her neighbour, to reveal information about Mr Huhne's points-swapping to newspapers after the couple split in 2010.

The scandal led to Mr Huhne's resignation and subsequent prosecution.

He pleaded guilty in February last year, while Ms Pryce was convicted after a trial.

Both have now served jail sentences.

When the allegations emerged in 2011, Briscoe made a witness statement to police on May 31 that year claiming Ms Pryce confided in her in 2003 after she found out that Mr Huhne had asked her to take his speeding points, portraying herself as an "independent and objective" witness.

In a second statement on August 16 2012 she denied having any contact with journalists or newspapers about the story but emails obtained by court order ahead of the Huhne-Pryce trial showed that Briscoe had spoken to journalists.

Once her involvement was revealed, Briscoe was dropped as a witness in Huhne and Pryce's trial and she was arrested in October 2012.

The jury has heard that Briscoe - a barrister with many years' experience - was intent on bringing about Mr Huhne's downfall and knew how to manipulate the criminal justice system to her advantage.

It was claimed that she misled police in her witness statements.

It was also alleged that she deliberately gave police an altered copy of one of the statements into which she had inserted an extra "I" to change the meaning to suggest she had refused to speak to journalists about the story - only for emails handed over by newspapers to prove she had been in touch with reporters.

The third charge alleged that Briscoe then deliberately handed a different copy of the altered statement to an expert so he would find that the alteration was due to a printer malfunction.

The defendant denied deliberately misleading police, saying it was always clear she had spoken to journalists by the fact her name was used in newspaper stories about the speeding points scandal.

Briscoe remains on bail until her sentencing at the Old Bailey from 10am tomorrow.

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