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Once high-flying UK politician faces prison over speeding ticket cover-up

Justin Tallis / AFP - Getty Images

Former British energy minister Chris Huhne and partner Carina Trimingham leave a London court Monday after he pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice. Huhne resigned his cabinet post after being charged last year, and he pleaded not guilty in a hearing Jan. 28. Now he faces jail time and said he would resign his seat in Parliament.

LONDON — Former British Cabinet member Chris Huhne pleaded guilty Monday to perverting the course of justice by persuading his then wife in 2003 to accept penalty points on her driver's licence for a speeding offense he had committed.

A senior member of the Liberal Democrats, the smaller party in Britain's ruling coalition, Huhne resigned from his post as secretary of state for energy and climate change in February 2012, when he was charged.

Paul Hackett / Reuters

Vicky Pryce, the ex-wife of former British energy secretary Chris Huhne, leaves court in London on Monday. She also pleaded not guilty to perverting justice.

He had remained a member of parliament but said after Monday's court hearing in London that he would quit his seat.

Huhne remains free on unconditional bail pending his sentencing, which Judge Nigel Sweeney said would take place at an unspecified later date.

The judge signaled to Huhne that he was likely to face a term in jail.

"You should have no illusions whatsoever as to the sort of sentence that you are likely to receive," Sweeney told Huhne after he entered a guilty plea.

"Understood?" the judge asked Huhne, who nodded from the glass-walled dock at the back of the courtroom.

At a court hearing a week ago, Huhne had pleaded not guilty to the same offense. His ex-wife, Vicky Pryce, who was charged with the same offense at the same time, had pleaded not guilty at an earlier court hearing.

Outside the court, Huhne said he would be standing down from his parliamentary seat in Eastleigh in southern England.

"Having taken responsibility for something which happened 10 years ago, the only proper course of action for me is now to resign my Eastleigh seat in parliament," Huhne told reporters.

A heavyweight among Liberal Democrats, Huhne narrowly lost to Nick Clegg in a 2007 election to lead the party. Clegg is now deputy prime minister in a coalition government led by Conservatives.

Describing Huhne as "a big beast," Clegg recently told reporters he would like to see the ex-minister return to the "top table" of British politics were he to be cleared of the charges.