By Sean Dilley
Chris Huhne has been told "not to be under any illusion" about the type of sentence he is likely to receive after pleading guilty today to perverting the course of justice at Southwark Crown Court.
The admission comes a decade after the former energy secretary allegedly passed speeding points on to his wife.
Perverting the course of justice is an incredibly serious criminal offence. In practical terms, Huhne should now be packing his overnight bag, ready for his inevitable custodial sentence since "sentences of imprisonment should not normally be suspended".
The sentencing guidelines suggest a jail term of between four and 36 months. The fact the offence was not "spontaneous" is an aggravating factor. The nature of the "substantive offence" (speeding) combined with suggestion he only committed it once, means the judge is highly unlikely to look toward the three year upper tariff.
A basic but educated reading of the guidelines would seem to suggest the relevant tariff fits within the four to 18 month bracket, and even then the upper 18 month end seems somewhat unlikely given that serious cases involving false allegations of rape, where men have actually been arrested and kept in custody for 17 hours, have resulted in just 24 months in prison.
And despite the fact that Chris Huhne has denied the allegations until now, some degree of credit will be likely to be applied due to his "early guilty plea".
My own prediction is six to 12 months custody - but it's important to remember that the court will consider all the circumstances according to law and the guidelines. What is
clear however is that Huhne's political career is over. He has announced his resignation from parliament - which will ironically see him appointed to a royal office of profit due to archaic parliamentary protocol - but however you cut it, this has been a bad day for one of parliament's coliurful characters.
For us politicos however, the question must now turn to Eastleigh and whether the Liberal Democrats stand a chance in hell of re-election.
You can read the sentencing guidelines for yourself here.