LONDON, Feb 3 – British Energy Secretary Chris Huhne resigned on Friday after prosecutors announced he would be charged over allegations that he dodged a speeding penalty, but vowed to prove his innocence.
“I’m innocent of these charges and I intend to fight this in the courts,” he told reporters outside his London flat, adding that “to avoid any distraction to either my official duties or my trial defence, I am standing down”.
Huhne and his ex-wife, Vicky Pryce, will be charged with perverting the course of justice over the alleged incident in 2003 and will appear in court on February 16, Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer announced.
The lawmaker is a senior member of the Liberal Democrat party, which shares power in Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative-led coalition.
He becomes the third minister to leave the government since it took office in May 2010.
“We have concluded that there is sufficient evidence to bring criminal charges against Mr Huhne and Ms Pryce for perverting the course of justice,” Starmer announced in a rare televised statement.
“The essence of the charges is that between March and May 2003, Mr Huhne, having allegedly committed a speeding offence, falsely informed the investigating authorities that Ms Pryce had been the driver of the vehicle in question, and she falsely accepted that she was the driver.
“Accordingly, summonses against both Mr Huhne and Ms Pryce have been obtained from Westminster Magistrates Court and those summonses will now be served on them. They are due to appear in court on 16 February this year.”
Huhne announced in 2010 that he was leaving his wife after having an affair, and the couple divorced last year after 26 years of marriage. They have three children and two stepchildren together.
The former journalist at the Economist, the Guardian and the Independent was elected to parliament in 2005 to represent Eastleigh in southeast England, after six years as a member of the European Parliament.
Huhne has always been ambitious, contesting the leadership of his Lib Dem party just eight months after becoming an MP. He tried again in 2007, losing out to Nick Clegg, the current leader and deputy prime minister.
Huhne was among the Lib Dems who negotiated the coalition deal with the Conservatives after the 2010 election resulted in no party winning a large enough majority to govern alone.