What Chris Huhne and Abu Hamza have in common
It was not the media that destroyed Chris Huhne and his family, no matter what he and his long-established supporters might say. It was all him
As Chris Huhne skulked from the dock at the end of his pre-trial hearing a week ago, his demeanour was discernibly different to anything we had seen previously.
He had just been informed by Mr Justice Sweeney that his attempt to have his case thrown out had been refused, and that he would stand trial on charges of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
Huhne sped past the press gallery, I momentarily caught his eye. It was only for a split second, but I shall not forget the unmistakable, cold, empty look of resignation his brief glance conveyed. It was at that moment I knew once and for all: he was finished.
It is only now that what happened during those clandestine courtroom clashes can be reported. Until now the select band of journalists who persevered have been gagged from revealing that Huhne made two applications to the court to prevent a trial. Even now there remain details we cannot mention.
Mr Kelsey-Fry, the infamous defence counsel who represented football manager Harry Redknapp during his tax evasion trial, argued that Huhne would never receive a fair trial due to the level of invective aimed at him by the public. They contended that a YouGov poll showing 60 percent of the population believing him to be guilty meant no jury could be considered impartial. That defence didn’t work for Abu Hamza, it didn’t work for Chris Huhne.
For three whole months Huhne’s expensive legal team tried to convince the judge that the evidence against their client was, in their own memorable words, “gossamer-thin”. Speeding forms had been destroyed, they said. It was one person’s word against another. The potentially incriminating texts between Huhne and his son, Peter, were inadmissible. Every trick was tried. Every trick has failed.
While it was undoubtedly surprising that Huhne changed his plea to guilty yesterday morning, in hindsight perhaps it should have been expected. The disgraced former energy secretary had no hope of exonerating himself now those explosive texts would be used against him. The best he could do was reduce his sentence.
The texts: incredible, damning; for many who have read them, heartbreaking. I spent much of yesterday afternoon defending our decision to publish the deeply personal messages between Huhne and his 18-year-old son.
It would always be uncomfortable to read the private vitriol of a young man towards the person who has ruined his family, not least when that person is his own father. “F*** off”, Peter told Chris repeatedly. “I hate you”, “you disgust me”, “don’t contact me again, you make me feel sick”.
But the texts had to be published because they contained crucial evidence that Huhne had - so Peter claimed - admitted his guilt to his son. They had to be published in full because Huhne had tried so hard to stop their disclosure. As Mr Justice Sweeney ruled: “the jury must be free to draw adverse inference from the texts...there is a case to answer”.
And so it was not the media that destroyed Chris Huhne and his family, no matter what he and his long-established supporters might say. It was all him.
This is a man who has spent ten years blaming other people for his crimes. Yesterday, he finally took responsibility. A liar, a crook, a self-confessed criminal. Her Majesty's prison awaits.
Alex Wickham is The Commentator's UK Political Editor and a reporter at the Guido Fawkes website. He is a contributor to their column in The Sun newspaper. He tweets at @WikiGuido
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