Energy secretary Chris Huhne has been charged with in connection with speeding and allegedly perverting the course of justice, the Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer has announced on Friday morning.
Huhne is alleged to have arranged with his now-estranged wife, Vicky Pryce, for her to take speeding penalty points on his behalf, after Huhne's car was caught speeding on the M11 in March 2003. She is also charged with perverting the course of justice. They will appear in court on the 16th of February this year.
Huhne, who was a Lib Dem Member of the European Parliament at the time, has always denied the allegations. However he is now expected to resign from the Cabinet, with few believing he can continue as a secretary of state while handling these charges. Last month Nick Clegg hinted that it would be impossible for a Cabinet minister to remain in post while charged with such an offence. Number 10 has previously said it has confidence in the energy secretary, but hasn't commented on the latest revelations so far.
Huhne's resignation is expected within hours, and David Cameron is now expected to replace him at DECC with Lib Dem Ed Davey, currently a business minister. Norman Lamb, Nick Clegg's close adviser, is also expected to get a junior ministerial job.
Keir Starmer told a news conference on Friday morning: ""We have concluded that there is sufficient evidence to bring criminal charges against both Mr Huhne and Ms Pryce for perverting the court of justice." He urged journalists to ensure that both Huhne and Pryce received a fair trial.
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Essex Police said they were initially unable to open an investigation following newspaper reports, because their database didn't go back to 2003. They later launched an inquiry at the behest of a Labour MP when a recording of Huhne discussing the alleged speeding emerged last summer.
Chris Huhne was elected to Parliament in 2005 and narrowly lost the Lib Dem leadership contest to Nick Clegg in 2007. He held several frontbench spokesman positions when the Lib Dems were in opposition, including home affairs and Treasury. When the coalition was formed in 2010 he became energy secretary, but only a month after the election his affair with Carina Trimingham was revealed and he separated from Vicky Pryce three months later.
Allegations that Huhne allowed someone close to him to take the speeding points were published in May of last year in two Sunday newspapers. Emails between Vicky Pryce and the political editor of the Sunday Times, Isabel Oakeshott, were handed to police last month, after the Sunday Times dropped an appeal against being ordered to disclose them.
The long-running police probe and accompanying news reports have made Chris Huhne's job particularly challenging. Despite revealing several key green policies in recent months, the press attention has largely been focused on his infidelity, marriage and alleged criminality.