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Wednesday 27 February 2013

Judge Briscoe Paying the Pryce

So the trial of Chris Huhne’s former wife Vicky Pryce has resumed, following the inability of the first trial’s jury to correctly separate arse from elbow. But the second trial is already covering different ground, not least because it has been deemed fine to talk about the role of Constance Briscoe, and the revelations surrounding her may prove distinctly unhelpful to Ms Pryce’s chances.

We can, for instance, talk about why Ms Briscoe was arrested, and here the Fourth Estate displays its customary inability to use the word “alleged”, rather than make an unproven assertion and wrap it in inverted commas. The Independent at least makes an effort, telling that she was arrested – and dropped as a prosecution witness – for allegedly lying to Police about her role in the affair.

Actually, the Sun also manages to use the A-word too, and delivers the story in a straightforward manner: Ms Briscoe claimed not to have had any dealings with the press, but she and Ms Pryce apparently approached a freelance working for the Mail On Sunday back in 2010. That much is straightforward: what should also be noted is that the MoS decided not to run the story.

Er, hello? What was that claim of Paul Dacre’s from this morning’s Daily Mail? That the “free press” had got Huhne? Well, his part of that “free press” clearly wasn’t troubling the scorers on this occasion. The MoS’ managing editor passed up the chance to nail a senior member of its most hated political party. Proper courage from the Vagina Monologue.

Meanwhile, to underscore its no longer being fit to be called a paper of record, the Maily Telegraph just goes with “lied to police without resorting to the use of “allegedly”. So does the Mirror, but that’s only to be expected with a red top: the Tel really should do better. Even the Evening Standard (aka London Daily Bozza) can mamage “accused of lying to police”.

But, back at the Pryce trial, we should look at the potential effect of Ms Briscoe’s arrest – and the news that she and Ms Pryce appear to have been collaborating to make a very deliberate, and dishonest, pitch to the press (claiming an aide to Huhne took the points). This is not going to impress judge or jury when the defendant is claiming that her then husband forced her to take his speeding points.

The impression, rather, is given that Ms Pryce had decided to pursue a strategy of vengeance, and that in this she was firmly calculating and ruthless. On top of that, the bluster from Paul Dacre of a brave free press seeking out the facts comes across as utter claptrap: Ms Pryce looks to have been hawking her story around the papers, who could not have failed to pick up on it.

She comes out of it badly, and the Fourth Estate comes out a whole lot worse.

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