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Monday, 10 January, 2000, 16:16 GMT
What next for celebrity prisoners?

aitken Free church: Aitken and family stroll to a Sunday service

Jonathan Aitken is out of jail and Gary Glitter is to be released on Tuesday - but how do they redeem themselves in the eyes of the public?

Former minister Aitken was convicted of perjury following an unsuccessful libel case and rock star Glitter for possessing child pornography.

Both suffered a dramatic fall in the public's estimation.

But Aitken at least can be comforted by the fact that the route back will be easier than Glitter's, said public relations guru Max Clifford.

Aitken reportedly wants to embark on a two-year theology course at Oxford.

glitter Glitter: Must throw himself on the mercy of the public
But Mr Clifford told BBC News Online: "The first thing he has to do is clear his debts.

"All this stuff about finding God will not carry much weight when people are still reading about his wife living in properties all over the world."

Clearing his debts would not only raise the public's estimation of him, it would boost his bank balance in the long run.

"No organisation will employ someone who is unpopular," says Mr Clifford.

If he is ever going to hold his head up, he has to put his hands up
Max Clifford on Gary Glitter
"Companies are going to think long and hard before they put his name on their paper."

Mr Clifford also says that Aitken, who is reported to be writing a book about his experiences of the past three years, would do well to remember the disappointing sales of James Hewitt's memoirs of life with Diana, Princess of Wales.

The public's distaste for Mr Hewitt, he said, was reflected in the sales.

"If Aitken really wants to resurrect himself and get the best out of a bad situation, then he has to clear up the mess first," says Mr Clifford.

Gary Glitter faced a much harder task because of the nature of his offences.

"It is going to be well nigh impossible because the public loathes anything to do with child sex.

"He has got to throw himself on the mercy of the public. He has to stand up and admit what he has done and have treatment and therapy.

"He could also do some gigs with all the money going to the victims of child pornography.

"If he is ever going to hold his head up, he has to put his hands up."

However, the public are still thirsting for some kind of retribution other than prison.

"He needs to get badly beaten up with pictures of him in hospital with all his bruises. Then people will begin to feel sorry."

For some villains, the path back to public acceptance has been somewhat easier.

archer Archer: Could try some jovial penitence
Sixties hoodlum Dave Courtney, the inspiration for the character played by the footballer Vinnie Jones in the film Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, is planning a career in television.

And Freddy Foreman, convicted armed robber and former associate of the Kray twins has been plugging fluffy toys in Virgin Atlantic's in-flight shopping magazine.

Mr Clifford says: "There's a Robin Hood side to them. The only people they had a go at were other villains."

Disgraced Jeffrey Archer is still licking his wounds after being forced to step down in the race to become Mayor of London after he admitted asking a friend to fabricate an alibi for a 1987 libel action.

But Mr Clifford says a bit of jovial penitence would go a long way.

Mr Clifford, who incidentally helped orchestrate the publicity leading to Lord Archer's downfall, thinks: "He should do what Alan Clark did and laugh at it.

"He should say he did go to Oxford, but he was cleaning the toilets and admit that he has written some terrible books.

"That way he could turn it around and be in demand as an after-dinner speaker."

For some, a little public shame can go a long way.

Derek Draper's career as a political lobbyist came to an abrupt end in 1998 following an expose by The Observer. But that did not stop another career as a political pundit and columnist - in fact it probably helped it.

As BBC Today presenter John Humphrys noted in his autobiography Devil's Advocate: "Shameful notoriety did not mean oblivion. It meant an opportunity for celebrity."

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See also:
10 Jan 00 |  UK
Glitter 'facing death threats'
23 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
The Archer scandal
09 Jan 00 |  UK Politics
Aitken seeks solace in church

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