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Wednesday, 20 June, 2001, 13:53 GMT 14:53 UK
Archer jury visits libel trial scene
Lord Archer arrives at the High Court
Lord Archer walked to the High Court
The jury in Lord Archer's perjury trial has visited the courtroom where his 1987 libel battle was played out.

They are thought to be the first jury in a criminal trial to be taken to the High Court.

The occupants of Court 8 at the Old Bailey headed en masse to Court 13 of the Royal Courts of Justice in The Strand, central London, the scene of Lord Archer's successful libel case against the Daily Star newspaper.

The jury is trying the best-selling novelist for criminal offences in relation to the libel case.

Ted Francis
Ted Francis denies perverting the course of justice
Old Bailey judge Mr Justice Potts and the barristers in the case abandoned their wigs and gowns for the visit and were joined by the defendants and court staff.

Lord Archer and his co-accused Ted Francis arrived within five minutes of each other, walking along Fleet Street in the sunshine with their lawyers.

As well as being shown the court, a short walk from the Old Bailey, the six men and six women of the jury were allowed to ask questions.

Lord Archer, 61, is alleged to have used a fake diary with pages partially covered up during the High Court trial.

Charges denied

But when the newspaper's barrister Michael Hill QC, was asked how much of the diary he had seen, he was unclear, saying the witness box was at another level and the court had been like "a cattle market".

Lord Archer, 61, denies four counts of perverting the course of justice, two counts of perjury and one of using a diary as a false instrument.

They relate to the 1987 libel trial, when he was awarded 500,000 damages after denying newspaper allegations that he had slept with a prostitute in September 1986.

Television producer Mr Francis, 67, of Cranleigh, Surrey, denies one charge of perverting the course of justice.

Mr Justice Potts led the jurors into a hushed Court 13. The two defendants, separated by three lawyers, sat in the back of the court.

Contrasting courts

They looked around the Victorian gothic courtroom with its stone walls, iron awnings, oak ceiling and leaded windows.

It was a contrast to the modern, pine-covered Old Bailey court where they had been sitting for 16 days.

The judge told them: "Ladies and gentlemen, five of you on the right are sitting in the jury box, the shorthand writer is in the judge's seat, this is the witness box on the left."

He pointed to a small wooden gate and said that was the "bar" and the QCs would have sat forward of that area.

The judge told them to sit anywhere they liked - it was not necessary to sit in the cramped jury box.

Jury roamed

They took him at his word, spending 10 minutes sitting in leading counsel's seats, the witness box and even the judge's chair.

They moved around in silence as they put themselves in the shoes of Lord Archer, Mr Hill and the late Mr Justice Caulfield, the libel judge.

Mr Justice Potts took a back seat, sitting in the press benches while the members of the press were allowed to watch proceedings from the usually unused public gallery which had been dusted off especially for the occasion.

After forty minutes, the jury left the High Court around 1245BST.

The trial has been adjourned until Tuesday, when it is due to continue at the Old Bailey.

Links to more UK stories are at the foot of the page.


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