LONDON Jan 15 A British judge hailed as a role
model appeared in court on Wednesday as the defendant, accused
of lying to police about her role in a revenge plot that landed
a cabinet minister in jail.
Constance Briscoe, 56, has pleaded not guilty to three
charges of perverting the course of justice. She will present
her defence case later in her trial at London's Southwark Crown
Briscoe has gained prominence as one of Britain's first
black women to be appointed a recorder, or part-time judge, and
as the author of a best-selling childhood memoir titled "Ugly".
Her case is a sequel to the saga of former minister Chris
Huhne and his ex-wife Vicky Pryce, who were both jailed for
eight months last year for lying to police in 2003 over which of
them had committed a speeding offence.
Pryce exposed the deception in the press in 2011 in an act
of revenge against Huhne after he left her for his mistress in
2010. That caused Huhne's downfall but also backfired on Pryce.
Now Briscoe, praised as a role model for overcoming an
under-privileged start in life to become a trial lawyer and
recorder, is the third high-profile figure whose career and
reputation are on the line.
"INTENT" ON MINISTER'S DOWNFALL
She is accused of hiding from police how close she was to
Pryce and her role in trying to get the speeding story into the
newspapers in a way that would hurt Huhne but not Pryce.
"She presented herself ... as somebody who was independent
and objective, rather than someone who was engaging with the
media and quite intent on Mr Huhne's downfall herself,"
prosecutor Bobbie Cheema told the court.
Huhne, a senior Liberal Democrat who was energy secretary in
Britain's coalition government, was once seen as a potential
successor to party leader Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister,
until the scandal ended his career.
Pryce was a prominent economist who had been co-head of the
government's economic service. After her conviction she was
stripped of a title bestowed on her by Queen Elizabeth.
Briscoe became involved in the Huhne-Pryce story because one
of the early newspaper articles about it, in May 2011, named her
as a neighbour of Pryce and hinted she had direct knowledge of
the speeding deception.
Briscoe was interviewed by police and, based on what she
told them, she was lined up to be a key prosecution witness in
the trial of Huhne and Pryce.
However, when police later obtained dozens of journalists'
emails relating to the speeding story, they found evidence that
contrary to what Briscoe had told them, she had been a close
confidante to Pryce and had negotiated with journalists over how
to run the story.
She was dropped as a prosecution witness and later charged.
The trial continues.
(Editing by Andrew Roche)