Thief who faked pregnancy is jailed

Lisa Philips arrives at Teesside Crown Court
Lisa Philips arrives at Teesside Crown Court

A thief who avoided jail by lying to court about being pregnant has been jailed for five months for perverting the course of justice.

Lisa Philips, 37, originally received a suspended sentence for stealing £14,700 from her aunt after the judge heard she was seven months pregnant.

The mother of one from Eskdale Place, Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, had told the custody sergeant when she was arrested in June last year she was 13 weeks pregnant.

She maintained the lie when she fell to be sentenced in October last year and in later meetings with the Probation Service, Teesside Crown Court heard.

When Philips avoided jail last year, she was photographed by the press holding her “bump” as she left court, Paul Cleasby, prosecuting, said.

Suspicions were raised among Probation Service staff even after her due date had passed and she showed them pictures of a child she claimed to be her baby.

She eventually claimed she had lost the pregnancy. When she was challenged about what had really happened she finally agreed she had lied to police.

Mr Cleasby said: “She claimed she had panicked, she had not set out to improve her situation. Once the lie had been told she simply could not retract.”

Ben Pegman, defending, said: “She is genuinely sorry, embarrassed and ashamed for her actions.

“What started as a lie given in expediency when she was first arrested by the police has spiralled into something extremely serious.

“She recognises she had opportunities throughout the proceedings to correct the lie she gave to police.”

Philips, who has a 16-year-old son, took £14,700 from Tracy Sedgewick because she was concerned her aunt’s partner was going to take the money out of the country. But she ended up keeping it and buying a large TV and PlayStation.

When police investigated she showed them a false NatWest bank statement she had created.

Judge Peter Armstrong, who originally handed out the suspended sentence for theft, said an immediate jail sentence was required.

He said her fake pregnancy was clearly taken into account when he decided it was appropriate to suspend the sentence for the theft, despite his feeling at the time that a custodial sentence was “richly deserved”.

He told her: “You avoided jail because of your bogus mitigation. It would be wholly unjust, not just to Tracy Sedgewick but to the public, if that was to happen again.”

Philips, who pleaded guilty to one count of perverting the course of justice at a previous hearing, was told she will serve half the sentence in prison.

Judge Briscoe charged with perverting the course of justice

BRISCOE

One of the country’s most prominent black woman judges, from south-west London, has vowed to fight allegations that she perverted the course of justice in connection with the Chris Huhne trial.

Constance Briscoe, 56, is accused of two counts of the offence, relating to statements that were made to Essex Police.

In a statement issued through her solicitors, she said: “I am deeply distressed at the decision of the Crown Prosecution Service to charge me. I have not committed the offences alleged against me and I will fight the allegations in court.

“There is a great deal more I would like to say now but I have been advised that I should not do so at this stage. I ask only that no judgment is reached against me on the basis of this prosecution decision and before the full facts are heard.”

The first count alleges that, between May 2011 and last October, she provided police with two statements that were inaccurate.

The second alleges that on October 6 she produced a copy of her witness statement that had been altered and maintained that it was the correct version.

Barrister and part-time judge Briscoe is facing allegations that she falsely claimed to police that she had no dealings with the press over the Huhne speeding points case.

Both Huhne and his ex-wife Vicky Pryce received eight-month sentences after it emerged that she had taken points for her former husband a decade ago – the former energy secretary pleaded guilty on the first day of a planned joint trial in February, and economist Pryce was later convicted by a jury.

During legal proceedings it was alleged that Briscoe, from the same street in Clapham where the former power couple lived, had lied to police over her dealings with the press about the points-swapping, which first emerged through newspaper stories in 2011.

The barrister, who hit the headlines in 2008 when her mother sued her over claims made in her “misery memoir” Ugly, was arrested on October 2012 and suspended by the Office of Judicial Complaints.

A spokeswoman for the Office for Judicial Complaints said: “The Lord Chief Justice and Lord Chancellor have suspended Constance Briscoe from the judiciary pending the outcome of the police investigation into the allegations against her.”

She is due to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on June 24.

CPS senior lawyer Deborah Walsh said: “The first allegation is that, between May 16 2011 and October 6 2012, Constance Briscoe provided Essex Police with two statements which were inaccurate.

“The second allegation, dated October 6 2012, is that Constance Briscoe produced a copy of a witness statement that had been altered and that she maintained was the correct version.

“This decision was taken in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors.

“We have determined that there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction and that these charges are in the public interest.”

Huhne & Pryce freed from prison

huhne

Former Cabinet minister Chris Huhne and his ex-wife were both freed from prison today after serving around a quarter of their eight-month sentences for swapping speeding points.

Huhne, a former energy secretary and once-aspiring Liberal Democrat leader, left Leyhill Prison in Gloucestershire by the main entrance in the back seat of a silver Honda, making no attempt to avoid waiting media cameras.

His ex-wife, economist Vicky Pryce, earlier emerged from East Sutton Park Prison near Maidstone, Kent, via a back exit and left with her solicitor Robert Brown, pursued by press photographers who been camped outside the Category D open jail for women and young offenders.

Huhne will return to the London home he shares with PR adviser Carina Trimingham.

The former Eastleigh MP left Pryce in 2010 as his affair with Ms Trimingham was about to be exposed, ending his 26-year marriage to Pryce and leading her to reveal the speeding points swap to newspapers in a bid to “nail” him.

Pryce is expected to return to her home in Clapham, south London.

The former couple were each handed eight-month prison sentences on March 11 for perverting the course of justice a decade ago when Pryce took speeding points for her then husband.

Huhne finally pleaded guilty to the offence on the first day of their trial in February after months of staunch denials and several attempts to get the case thrown out, while Pryce was later convicted by a jury after a retrial at Southwark Crown Court when her defence of marital coercion failed.

Both will now have to wear electronic tags, used to enforce either a timed curfew or a place of residence, as a condition of their early release.

For sentences of less than a year, an offender is automatically released after serving half of their sentence.

In addition, offenders serving sentences of between three months and four years, with certain exceptions for violent and sexual offenders, may also be eligible for release on a home detention curfew (HDC).

This allows an offender to be released up to 135 days before their automatic release date.