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Wednesday, 30 May, 2001, 18:05 GMT 19:05 UK
Archer 'arranged false alibi'
Jeffrey Archer arrives at court
Lord Archer has pleaded not guilty to the charges
Former Tory grandee Lord Archer arranged a false alibi before suing a newspaper which had claimed he had slept with a prostitute, the Old Bailey has heard.

The court was told he concocted the false alibi, together with television producer Ted Francis, after the Daily Star accused Lord Archer of sleeping with the prostitute.

A former deputy chairman of the Conservative Party and a best-selling novelist, Lord Archer is also accused of using a forged or falsified diary during the libel trial in 1987.

Lord Archer, who has homes in central London and Cambridgeshire, and faced the court as Jeffrey Howard Archer, denies all the charges against him.

Because Jeffrey Archer is a public figure, inevitably he attracts publicity

David Waters
Lord Archer, 61, faces seven charges in total - four of perverting the course of justice, two counts of perjury and one of using a false instrument.

Mr Francis, 67, of Cranleigh, Surrey, denies one count of perverting the course of justice.

David Waters, QC, prosecuting, warned jurors to discount anything they had heard about the case before coming to court, saying: "Because Jeffrey Archer is a public figure, inevitably he attracts publicity."

Mr Waters told the court Lord Archer launched his libel action against The Star newspaper and the paper's then editor, Lloyd Turner, in November 1986.

This followed the publication of an article "which suggested Lord Archer had associated with a prostitute around midnight on 8/9 September 1986".

Mr Waters said the News of the World published articles about Lord Archer on 26 October 1986.

They implied that Lord Archer had some sexual connection with the prostitute, Monica Coghlan, and had arranged for an intermediary to pass her a sum of money at London's Victoria station on 24 October, the court was told.

"Following the publication of those articles, Lord Archer resigned as deputy chairman of the Conservative Party the same day."

'Denied meeting'

Mr Waters said Lord Archer issued a press statement at the same time, in which he "denied ever having met Monica Coghlan".

"However, he said that she had telephoned him and told him that the press were pressing her and because of this and the recognition that the mere publicity would be extremely harmful to him, he foolishly arranged for her to be paid the money so that she could go abroad for a short period," said Mr Waters.

The press statement concluded: "For that lack of judgment and that alone" he had resigned as deputy chairman.

Monica Coghlan
Monica Coghlan died in a car crash earlier this year
Lord Archer issued a writ for damages after The Star published an article the following Saturday which restated and enhanced the allegations.

But when the paper lodged its defence it contained an error, citing the wrong date for the alleged encounter with the prostitute, the court heard.

Mr Waters said Lord Archer first met Mr Francis in the 1970s because Lord Archer was looking for someone who could raise funds for entertainment projects.

'Casual friends'

In 1999, Mr Francis approached public relations consultant Max Clifford about Lord Archer because he was concerned that he was running for London mayor, and thought he was unfit for the position, Mr Waters told the jury.

He said Mr Francis was introduced to News of the World journalist Neville Thurlbeck with a view to publication of his story in relation to a false alibi which Lord Archer had asked Francis to assist him with.

Ted Francis
Ted Francis was allegedly asked to lie in court by Lord Archer
"What Mr Francis had to tell Mr Thurlbeck was that in November or December 1986 Lord Archer telephoned him."

Lord Archer had allegedly invited Mr Francis to dinner at the Sambucco restaurant in Chelsea, then asked: "What were you doing on 9 September 1986. Could it be possible you were having dinner with me here - will you do that?" to which Francis had agreed.

Mr Waters added: "There followed the subterfuge of Lord Archer introducing Francis to staff at the restaurant so that, as Lord Archer put it, 'They will remember you being with me, but not the date.'"

Lord Archer had also asked Francis to write to his lawyer and confirm they had been together on 9 September 1986, Mr Waters alleged.

Mr Waters said that Lord Archer had then asked: "About the money you wanted, how much was it?", and when Francis replied: "20,000", had added: "OK, it's as good as yours."

The jury of six men and six women were told the trial would last up to four weeks.

The trial was adjourned until Thursday.

The BBC's Duncan Kennedy
"The case revolves around fake alibis and falsified diaries"
The BBC's Ben McCarthy
reports from outside the Old Bailey
See also:

30 May 01 | UK
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