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Paper 'pursued Huhne men liaisons'
2:00pm Friday 17th January 2014 in © Press Association 2014
A barrister and part-time judge accused of lying to police told officers that she was approached by a journalist investigating allegations that disgraced Cabinet minister Chris Huhne had had "liaisons with men", a court has heard.
Constance Briscoe said she had spoken to Mail on Sunday journalist David Dillon about several potential stories, including claims that economist Vicky Pryce broke off her engagement to Huhne after he apparently confessed he had had liaisons or relationships with other men, Southwark Crown Court heard.
The lawyer, who is charged with trying to pervert the course of justice in connection with the investigation into Huhne's speeding points scandal, also told police officers during an interview after she was arrested that Mr Dillon had asked her about a story he was pursuing over claims that Huhne had infected Pryce with pubic lice.
But Briscoe denied ever speaking to the journalist about Huhne passing speeding points to his now ex- wife Pryce, the court heard.
Briscoe, 56, denies three counts of intending to pervert the course of public justice.
The first alleges that, between May 16 2011, and October 6 2012, she 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 alleges that between October 5 2012 and October 8 2013 she deliberately got the document expert to view the wrong version of her witness statement.
The court has heard that Briscoe allegedly lied to police in two witness statements she made to officers investigating the points-swapping, then later altered a statement to hide her alleged dishonesty.
She is also accused of deliberately showing an expert the wrong copy of the altered statement so his report would say the alteration was a printer error.
Jurors have heard that Briscoe denied speaking to journalists about the speeding points in her statement, but emails later emerged showing that she had been communicating with the Mail on Sunday.
But after her arrest on October 6, 2012, the barrister told officers that she had always admitted speaking to Mr Dillon, but that they had not spoken about the points.
In a video-recorded interview under caution, she said: "Dillon contacted me at the beginning. What happened was this story broke and various people were interested in the story.
"Dillon had contacted me, and he had certainly contacted Vicky, there was an occasion where they were looking at various stories about Chris Huhne.
"They were looking at the speeding story and that I couldn't assist them on but there were other stories as well that the papers, in particular Mr Dillon, were interested in.
"One of the stories that Mr Dillon was interested in was he had discovered somehow that Vicky Pryce had called off her engagement, or whatever it was, to Chris and it had been called off when she was engaged with him because Chris Huhne had said to Vicky that he had had liaisons, whatever you want to call it, with men.
"I knew nothing about this because this was a story that the Mail, that Dillon, was pursuing."
But Briscoe said she knew nothing about the claims, adding: "I didn't know that she had called off the engagement because he had confessed that he had a relationship with men at that time so I couldn't help him."
During the interview, as she explained to officers why she had had contact with Mr Dillon, Briscoe - who has been suspended since her arrest - said: "David had told me that they had people based in wherever he was in Europe, wherever Chris was in Europe, trying to find the people or contacts with whom he had had this liaison with.
"I didn't know anything about this really."
She said the other story Mr Dillon was pursuing was claims that Huhne had infected his wife with pubic lice.
"The other contact that he was pursuing - and I'm not quite sure whether I should say this but I am going to, I am going to say it because I'm not having any of this bloody nonsense about me perjuring myself.
"When Chris was in wherever he was a European MEP he had come home and he had infected Vicky with crabs.
"And the explanation that he had given when Vicky had crabs was that he had contracted the crabs from the clean sheets in whatever hotel he was in."
In her interview Briscoe told officers that again, she knew nothing about the story.
She said when she had been asked about her contact with journalists about the speeding points, the conversations she had had with Mr Dillon were nothing to do with that
Briscoe was originally due to be a prosecution witness in the case against Pryce and Huhne, the court has heard.
But jurors have heard that once it was discovered that she had apparently lied about her contact with journalists, it was decided she was not a reliable witness.
The court has heard that she helped economist Pryce, who was her neighbour, to reveal information about the points-swapping scandal to newspapers after she and Huhne separated in 2010.
The scandal was to lead to Huhne's resignation and subsequent prosecution. He pleaded guilty in February last year, while Pryce was convicted after a trial. Both have now served jail sentences.
When the allegations first emerged in 2011, Briscoe made a witness statement to police claiming that a furious Pryce confided in her in 2003 after she found out that Huhne had nominated her to take his speeding points.
In a second statement she denied speaking to journalists about the story, but emails revealed that she had been in contact with journalists.
Once her involvement was revealed, Briscoe was dropped as a witness in Huhne and Pryce's trial and was arrested in October 2012.
Jurors were shown a video of the search of Briscoe's flat on the day she was arrested.
In the video the cluttered Georgian flat, in Crescent Grove, Clapham, was shown to have piles of papers and folders in most of the rooms, as well as papers scattered across the dining table.
Clothing was hung over a bannister and paintings adorned the walls, including a large promotional poster of Briscoe's book Ugly, featuring the slogan: "Her mother called her Ugly, that was the least of her worries."
During the interview, Briscoe claimed she knew nothing of Pryce's dealings with Sunday Times political editor Isabel Oakeshott about the speeding points.
But she described how the economist told her that she and Ms Oakeshott had recorded a phone conversation Pryce had with Huhne.
Briscoe, who said she thought the plan was "stark raving bonkers", described how one day in May 2011 she knocked on Pryce's door but there was no answer.
When she later saw her neighbour, the economist told her she and Ms Oakeshott had been in the house trying to record Huhne on the phone to Pryce.
"When she told me this I was extremely surprised and I asked where the tape was and that's when she said that Isabel had gone off with it," she told officers "I just thought to be honest the whole thing was stark raving bonkers," she went on, adding: "I mean it's just madness."
She told police: "It was to do with Chris Huhne talking to Vicky Pryce and Isabel, as I understand it, was present.
"I thought that was stark raving mad and at that point I suggested to Vicky that anything she had done she really needed to get some advice."
Briscoe denied offering Pryce legal help in revealing the story, and said she had only sat in on a meeting between the economist and Mr Dillon to offer support, as the economist had been in a "terrible state".
Describing one incident around that time, she told officers she found Pryce hiding in a car from reporters when the women were supposed to be meeting in Chancery Lane, London.
"I rang her and said 'where are you?'," she said. "'Down Chancery Lane on the right you get to a sort of car
park recess'. She said she was in the car park.
"I went down to the car park and Vicky Pryce was in a car, lying down on the back seat, hiding. That was the state she was in."
Briscoe said she encouraged Pryce to come out of the car, and explained to police that the economist was hiding from journalists who had been pursuing her and turning up at conferences or meetings she attended.
The barrister told police that she did not know where reports that Pryce had confided in her over the points allegation had come from.
Forensic scientist Jennifer Lord, who specialises in the analysis of questioned documents, told the court that she analysed both the statement Briscoe had given to police to copy during her interview, as well as the one she had submitted to an expert for analysis, and found that they were not the same.
It is alleged that Briscoe deliberately gave a copy of a different document to expert Maurice Rode so he would find that an extra "I" - said to have been deliberately inserted by the lawyer in a bid to change its meaning - was possibly due to a printer malfunction.
The alleged alteration, which appeared to show that Briscoe was claiming to have refused to talk to Mr Dillon, proved useless when emails of their correspondence were revealed, the court has heard.
Ms Lord told the court that although she agreed that the extra letter in the document examined by Mr Rode was indeed an "artefact" and not part of the text, the document in fact was not the same one that Briscoe had handed to police.
The case was adjourned until 10am on Monday.