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Disgraced barrister Constance Briscoe left penniless

2015-01-28 00:44:45

Constance Briscoe
Constance Briscoe 'is completely without funds', her lawyer, Patrick Gibbs, QC, told the court. Photograph: Mark Thomas/Rex Features

Constance Briscoe, the disgraced barrister and part-time judge jailed for perverting the course of justice in the Chris Huhne speeding points scandal, has been left penniless, a court was told.

The 57-year-old author of the best-selling memoir Ugly is unable to pay the £90,000 legal costs incurred during her trial as she has no income and is supported by her 26-year-old son, it was claimed.

Briscoe, a recorder and tribunal judge, was jailed for 16 months in May after an Old Bailey jury found her guilty of perverting the course of justice following a retrial. She was removed from the judiciary in August and released from jail in November after serving less than half her sentence. She has not undertaken any judicial duties since her arrest in October 2012.

At the costs hearing, prosecutor Oliver Glasgow told the judge, Mr Justice Baker, that the crown wanted £89,246.33 from Briscoe towards prosecution costs.

Patrick Gibbs, QC, representing Briscoe, said: "The reality is Miss Briscoe is completely without funds." He told the court Briscoe had sold her £650,000 flat in Clapham, south London, to her son so it could be remortgaged to release £159,000 to pay the legal costs of her first trial and also a £92,000 tax bill. The court heard Briscoe also faces a debt of £150,000 in outstanding VAT and income tax bills. Her current income was zero, she lives with her son and 24-year-old daughter but has not claimed benefits, said Gibbs.

Briscoe was able to apply for legal aid for her defence in the retrial, for which the crown is not seeking costs. The hearing was adjourned for her financial details to be confirmed, with the crown indicating it may not be sensible to pursue her for costs if they are correct. The judge said: "As I understand it her full consent will be forthcoming ... Miss Briscoe would have to swear an affidavit as to her current assets and income and also her liabilities."

Briscoe was dropped as a key prosecution witness in the trial of former cabinet minister and Liberal Democrat MP Chris Huhne and his ex-wife, economist Vicky Pryce. The two were convicted in 2013 of perverting the course of justice when it emerged Huhne, then an MEP, had asked Pryce in 2003 to accept three speeding points to escape a driving ban.

Briscoe was to have been an independent prosecution witness, but emails showed she was Pryce's friend and although she denied speaking to the press, she had been in contact with the Mail on Sunday over the speeding points story, which was leaked to papers after Huhne and Pryce split in 2010. She was convicted after a jury was told she was intent on bringing about Huhne's downfall and "determined to go for the kill". She had misled police in her witness statement and deliberately given them an altered copy of one of her statements.

One of the most prominent female black lawyers at the Bar, Briscoe had been a role model for others. Sentencing her in May, the judge said her offence "strikes at the heart of our much-cherished criminal justice system which is integral to the good order of society".

He added that her crime, like that of Huhne and Pryce, was "an act of arrogance by educated individuals who considered that respect for the law was for others".

Huhne pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice on the eve of a planned joint trial with Pryce, who was convicted of the same offence following a retrial. Both were jailed for eight months in March 2013.

Huhne was ordered to pay £77,500 and his ex-wife £49,200 towards their legal costs.

After Briscoe's conviction, Huhne, who was forced to resign as an MP, described her as "a compulsive and self-publicising fantasist", adding: "British justice is likely to be a lot fairer with Briscoe behind bars."

Source: theguardian.com

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