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Monday, 4 June, 2001, 17:00 GMT 18:00 UK
Archer secretary's 'deception' concerns
Lord Archer
Lord Archer arrives for court on Monday
A former secretary of Lord Archer has told a court how he asked her to fill names in a blank diary before his libel case against the Daily Star.

Angela Peppiatt told the Old Bailey she felt "uneasy" when the former Conservative party chairman made the request - and kept the original diary as a form of "protection".


I had become seriously concerned that I was being involved in deception

Angela Peppiatt
Lord Archer is accused of using a forged or falsified diary to provide an alibi for use in his 1987 libel case against the Daily Star newspaper.

The prosecution allege he made false diary entries to cover up his whereabouts on the night the newspaper claimed he was with a prostitute.

He is also accused of four charges of perverting the course of justice and two counts of perjury, but denies all the charges.

Lord Archer, 61, was awarded 500,000 damages after successfully suing the Star for libel in 1987.

Angela Peppiatt
Angel Peppiatt showed the court a small black diary
Mrs Peppiatt, who started work for Lord Archer in January 1985, said he asked her to make the entries in the spring of 1987, some two or three months before his libel case was due to come to court.

"Jeffrey came to me with this piece of paper and a blank diary and asked me to fill in the names on the piece of paper that he had handed me," she said.

The alterations differed slightly from the original names and times listed in his official appointments diary, she said.

Mrs Peppiatt said she had dictated the note to another secretary, Caroline Norman, and had asked her to counter-sign it.

She said: "I had become seriously concerned that I was being involved in deception and I wanted some kind of protection - insurance if you like."

Key dates

But Mrs Peppiatt said Lord Archer told her his counsel had suggested filling in the new entries would be better than presenting her own appointments diary which would show political sensitivity to certain names.

"It was still in the period after the Brighton bomb, when if you were involved in politics it had been impressed upon us that you never gave more information than you had to," she said.

"To a degree I felt reassured about this and I filled in the diary."

Mrs Peppiatt said she had also made photocopies of the new diary entries, some of them with a photocopy of the Times newspaper to prove the date.

She said some days were also filled in according to Archer's Economist working diary, not his normal appointments diary, as the latter book had been "mislaid".

The four diaries
Diary One: The Appointments Diary which the prosecution says was kept secret at the 1987 libel trial
Diary Two: The 'fake' Appointments Diary allegedly used in the 1987 court case
Diary Three: The working diary kept at Lord Archer's flat, which provided material for the main diary
Diary Four: A second allegedly 'fake' blank diary, eventually not used in the 1987 trial
Mrs Peppiatt said she was aware that the period of 8, 9 and 10 September 1986 were relevant to the libel proceedings, and added that the dates Lord Archer asked her to fill in were on 8 and 9 September.

Lord Archer insists diary entries for 8 and 9 September - the time at which the Daily Star claimed Archer had sex with prostitute Monica Coghlan - were there before October 1986.

Lord Archer denies having suppressed the diary's existence and substituted another diary in its place during the libel trial.

'False alibi'

The court has been told that Mrs Peppiatt handed in the diary to police in 1999 after she was questioned about claims that Lord Archer had asked his friend Ted Francis to provide him with a false alibi.

Mr Francis, 67, a television producer, from Cranleigh, Surrey, denies perverting the course of justice.

Asked if she knew if the fake diary was produced at the libel trial, she said she was not "100% sure".

About two weeks ago, she was preparing to give evidence when she found a bag full of press cuttings about Lord Archer.

Among them were photocopies which she had made from the Economist diary for September 1986.

Comparing these with later copies sent to lawyers for the Star, she could say that four entries had been added in Archer's writing.

The hearing was adjourned until Tuesday.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Duncan Kennedy
"Mrs Peppiatt's evidence could be crucial in the case against him"
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