For Huhne the Bell Tolls? Fergal Kinney wonders if directing vitriol at Chris Huhne is a mistake.

Chris Huhne

There’s a quite rightful anger over public figures being unaccountable, but directing this vitriol at Huhne is a mistake.

Over recent history there’s been no shortage of figures in public life who avoid accountability, be it leading politicians who have obviously broken laws with lives caught in the crossfire or media personalities able to count on blind eyes at every corner. Whilst I’ve no interest in defending Chris Huhne, it is worth considering how misguided the gloating at his punishment appears to be. Make no mistake, Huhne appears a pretty unsympathetic character – calculating, manipulative and as at ease deceiving a family member as a constituent – but this isn’t especially criminal and all of these traits have caught up with him in the end. You may or may not dispute whether Huhne’s offence really deserves an 8 month custodial sentence, but it’s difficult to stomach the unanimous joy at Huhne’s downfall without feeling just a little embarrassment. Any of us could more than likely be brought down by a past minor offence, and from recreational drug use to burning a CD for a friend the ‘law abiding majority’ cliché is as fictitious as Chris Huhne’s regular declarations of innocence. The right wing and tabloid press should – amongst other things – steer well clear of peddling homespun morality lessons on this front too.

What’s the point of Huhne being in prison? Obviously nobody should be above the law but taxpayer money is ultimately wasted on this man’s incarceration. His punishment has come through his political toxification and loss of career, he’s not especially likely to re-offend and the whole case is more of a deterrent against speaking to journalists than switching driving points. The Huhne affair isn’t going to deter people from switching their driving points as most know that the Sunday Times wouldn’t be interested in a gratuitous exposé of their minor misdemeanour. It may be profoundly refreshing to see a politician brought to justice, but it’s obvious that too many are making Huhne a symbol for the sins of every liar and criminal that’s ever held a top job, and this is undeserved and foolish.

The understandable bloodlust of the public for politicians in the dock has been misappropriated and morphed beyond recognition into something altogether different and ultimately a distraction from the real villains. This isn’t Tony Blair being sent down for war crimes at The Hague. This isn’t Jimmy Savile with a telephoto lens rammed up against his face on the steps of Leeds Crown Court. This isn’t even Jeffrey Archer; it’s just a pretty miserable former Liberal Democrat minister who’s already lost everything he lied to protect and there are much bigger fish left unfried.

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5 comments on “For Huhne the Bell Tolls? Fergal Kinney wonders if directing vitriol at Chris Huhne is a mistake.”

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  1. Jessie Williams

    Fergal, To use your line ‘brought down by a past minor offence’ – you have to remember that Huhne committed two offences not one. The initial speeding offence was fairly minor, and in most cases would be treated as such by the Courts; £60 fine (possibly only £40 back then( and his licence endorsed with 3pts. However in his case as he already had numerous effective endorsements the additional 3pts would have resulted in him being disqualified from holding a licence – usually for a 6mth period in the case of ‘totting up’ disqualifications. As such it could be argued that in his case it wasn’t so minor; at that point he made a conscious decision to up the ante and took action to avoid prosecution; he took steps to pervert he course of justice; these steps involved another person who agreed to go along with his deception.
    Perverting the Course of Justice is a serious crime – if a person is charged it can only be dealt with at a Crown Court, as the penalties available at a lower Magistrates Court are not deemed strong enough.
    By having entered into a course of action to Pervert the Course of Justice, the speeding fine became virtually irrelevant; what’s more Huhne had the gall to continue the lie for many many years. The offence of Pervert the Course of Justice could be considered to be an attempt to just ‘get away with it’ – if Huhne had say been caught on a speed camera and the Police had failed to have film loaded, failed to process the NIP within time limits etc then that I believe would have been ‘getting away with it’ – he however took actions to deceive the Court, the very justice system that whether we agree with it at all times does help to maintain the fabric of the society we live in; as such he deserves everything he got.
    Remember all those odd adages ‘play with fire’ or if you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime’ well there is a great deal of truth in them – Huhne decided to commit a serious offence, and as such he should expect a serious jail term.
    The point of prison – in this case it is to send out a message pure and simple, yes it will cost money, but justice cannot or should not be measured in cost…I agree he is unlikely to offend again, but if it demonstrates to the public that taking such actions to avoid a few points on your licence then we should all be grateful. Uninsured drivers, disqualified drivers etc cause mayhem on our roads, they are involved in fail to report collisions, injury collisions which impacts immediately on the persons involved but upon all of us; any action that could be taken to prevent this happening has to be supported.

    • The above Its a interesting debate. In our office yesterday we discussed the plight Chris Huhne. and like Huhne we all work and have busy life’s. His was back and forth on the road to his consistency to and from Parliament and back again to vote in the house later in the evenings plus he had held a Ministers role (more meeting and driving). I myself drive around the UK to meetings often leaving home at 5am the beat the traffic and then hitting traffic home with drives of 8 to 12 hours daily. We all speed to either get home or get to a meeting I am currently on 9 points and drive around 45,000 miles a year it goes with my turf its a “law” of averages I am going to get caught more than most on that mileage. Why do I speed simple answer. Because our motorway network is the most congested in Europe and yet we have the highest paid tax on fuel. Maybe Chris Huhne could think about that over the next 8 months.

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