LONDON -- A former British government minister announced his resignation from Parliament on Monday, after reversing his longstanding denials to accept responsibility for persuading his former wife to take the blame for a speeding offense he had committed a decade ago.
The resignation of the minister, Chris Huhne, 58, a onetime contender to lead the Liberal Democrats, the junior partner in the coalition government, was a tacit acknowledgment of the end of what had once been a high-flying career. "Having taken responsibility for something that happened 10 years ago, the only proper course of action for me is to resign," he said.
Until now, he had steadfastly denied that, in 2003, he persuaded his former wife, Vicky Pryce, to say she had been at the wheel when their car was caught in a highway speed trap between Stansted Airport and London. Had he admitted the offense at the time, he could have been banned from driving. The case emerged in 2011, after the marriage broke up over an affair he had and Ms. Pryce pleaded not guilty to perverting the course of justice in the episode, saying she had been coerced.
Mr. Huhne stepped down as energy minister in February 2012, but his plea of guilty to perverting the course of justice on Monday at Southwark Crown Court and resignation reverberated through British politics. As recently as a week ago, Mr. Huhne had denied the charge.
On Monday, Judge Nigel Sweeney told Mr. Huhne that, while he was being released on unconditional bail until sentencing, "you should have no illusions whatsoever as to the sort of sentence that you are likely to receive." British analysts said a jail term appeared likely, with sentencing guidelines of 4 to 36 months, though in principle, a life sentence is possible.
Before the hearing on Monday, the Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, had called Mr. Huhne a "big beast" of British politics and had said he looked forward to welcoming him back to the "top table" of British politics if he cleared his name. Mr. Huhne lost the party leadership battle to Mr. Clegg in 2007.
Mr. Clegg said on Monday that he was "shocked and saddened" by Mr. Huhne's reversal, but that he believed Mr. Huhne had "taken the right decision in resigning."
"This is obviously an extremely serious matter," Mr. Clegg said, "and it's essential that the legal process is now allowed to run its course."
Prime Minister David Cameron's office declined to comment, saying it was a "matter for Mr. Huhne."
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.