CPS Decision On Chris Huhne Expected Soon

A decision will be made ''as soon as possible'' on whether Eastleigh MP Chris Huhne is to face charges over speeding claims.

The way was cleared for a swift ruling after the publishers of the Sunday Times dropped a High Court challenge to a court order requiring emails relating to the allegations to be produced to Essex Police.

A Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) spokesman said: ''We are pleased that the appeal has been withdrawn.

''As soon as we have received the evidence we will consider it carefully and will reach a decision as soon as possible.''

It is understood the CPS is hoping to be able to make a decision within weeks, but this depends on the amount of evidence it has to process from the production order.

Police began investigations following claims by Mr Huhne's former wife, Vicky Pryce, in a Sunday Times interview that the Liberal Democrat had asked ''someone'' to take speeding points on his behalf to avoid losing his licence.

It later emerged the ''someone'' was allegedly Mrs Pryce.

Emails linked to the case were allegedly exchanged between Mrs Pryce and Isabel Oakeshott, the Sunday Times political editor.

The police obtained an order requiring that the emails be handed over to them at a private hearing at Chelmsford Crown Court last October.

Today Times Newspapers Ltd were expected to challenge the legality of the order before Lord Justice Toulson and Mr Justice Cranston at London's High Court.

However, as the hearing was about to start, the publishers withdrew their application, clearing away the last obstacle to the handover.

News reports have suggested ministers are on alert for a mini reshuffle if the case spells the end of the Energy Secretary's Cabinet career.

Downing Street declined to speculate on whether Mr Huhne could remain a minister if he is charged with an offence, saying only that members of the Cabinet are appointed by the Prime Minister and are subject to the ministerial code.

The code states that ''ministers of the Crown are expected to behave in a way that upholds the highest standards of propriety'' and makes clear that it is for the Prime Minister alone to judge whether they should remain in office.

A Number 10 spokeswoman said: ''The Prime Minister has confidence in the Energy Secretary.''

Police have already obtained an affidavit Mrs Pryce signed when she made her allegations, as well as a taped telephone conversation between her and Mr Huhne.

The speeding offence is alleged to have taken place in 2003 when the then-MEP was driving home from Stansted Airport after flying back from the European Parliament.

Mr Huhne, who left Ms Pryce for another woman, has denied the points allegations.

The High Court ordered that documents to be used in the hearing should remain confidential.

Lord Justice Toulson said: ''Having read all the material in the case, we can see that media publication could give rise to problems if criminal proceedings are brought as a result of the pre-trial disclosure.

''We can see that it is in the interests of criminal justice that there should be a moratorium on their publication.''

The judge said the order would remain in place pending the decision on whether to charge and, if charges were brought, to the conclusion of any criminal proceedings.

However he stressed the court did not think the order should remain in place indefinitely.

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