BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: UK  
News Front Page
Middle East
South Asia
N Ireland
Talking Point
Country Profiles
In Depth
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
Tuesday, 8 October, 2002, 14:09 GMT 15:09 UK
Timeline: Stranger than fiction
Lord Archer
Lord Archer: Politician, author and businessman
Lord Archer's life is a tale of success and scandal. BBC News Online looks back over the recent ups and downs of the peer's career.

1987: Libel case
In October 1986 a tabloid scandal broke. Newspaper reports alleged that Jeffrey Archer, then deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, had been seeing a prostitute.

Lord Archer vigorously denied he had slept with the woman whose name was Monica Coghlan. He sued the Daily Star newspaper for libel and won. He was awarded a spectacular 500,000 in damages.

Monica Coghlan:
Monica Coghlan: Her word against Lord Archer's
But he resigned his post as deputy chairman of the Conservative Party as a result of the scandal.

A letter written by Lord Archer's friend Ted Francis, which gave Lord Archer an alibi for a night in September 1986, was never used during the 1987 trial.

But this letter became significant 12 years later when Mr Francis admitted its contents were false.

1992: Peerage
Jeffrey Archer was made a life peer as a reward for his services to the Conservative Party.

1994: Anglia shares
In January, acting on behalf of a friend, Lord Archer bought 50,000 Anglia shares shortly before a takeover made the share price soar.

He then sold the shares at a profit of more than 70,000.

Lord Archer has always maintained that he made no personal profit from the deal.

However, his wife Mary Archer was a director of the company at the time, which raised the prospect of insider dealing.

In July Lord Archer was told that no insider trading charges would be brought - but his lawyers admitted he had made a mistake.

Previously tipped to become Tory party chairman, Lord Archer did not feature in a summer cabinet reshuffle.

1999: Scandal resurfaces
Lord Archer launched his campaign to become London mayor in July. By this time Ted Francis had fallen out with Lord Archer. He said he "disapproved of the idea of Jeffrey Archer becoming Mayor of London".

In November Mr Francis told the News of the World that Lord Archer had asked him to provide a false alibi ahead of his Daily Star libel hearing in July 1987.

Mr Francis said he did this believing it was to help save Lord Archer's marriage. He said Lord Archer had told him he was really with his former assistant Andrina Colquhoun on the night in question.

This is the end of politics for Jeffrey Archer. I will not tolerate behaviour like this in my party.

William Hague, 1999
In the resulting furore Lord Archer stood down as candidate for London mayor. He released a statement in which he admitted that he had asked Mr Francis to cover for him.

The Conservative Party, keen to eradicate any hint of sleaze from its ranks, removed the whip from Lord Archer and announced it would refer aspects of the allegations against him to its ethics and integrity committee.

Then party leader William Hague said: "This is the end of politics for Jeffrey Archer. I will not tolerate behaviour like this in my party."

The Daily Star demanded the return of 500,000 in damages - plus interest.

The paper said that although Ted Francis's statement was never used in court during the 1987 case, knowledge it had been fabricated could have affected the outcome.

As a result of the revelations the police began a perjury investigation.

2000: Imitating life
In February Lord Archer was expelled from the Conservative Party for five years over the scandal.

Lord Archer bounced back in September when he made his stage debut in a peculiar blurring of fiction and reality.

He appeared at the Theatre Royal Windsor as the lead character in The Accused, a courtroom drama.
Theatre poster
The Accused: Lord Archer takes centre stage

Lord Archer played a prominent man defending himself in a court case. The play focused on whether or not his character had lied about a sexual relationship.

At the end the audience got to vote on whether he was guilty.

In December Lord Archer was back in a real court, pleading not guilty to the charges against him as the trial date is set for May the following year.

April 2001: Fatal accident
In a bizarre twist the woman at the centre of the original libel case was killed in a car accident two weeks before the start of the new trial.

Monica Coghlan died when the car she was driving was hit by another vehicle, driven by a fleeing armed robber.

May 2001: Trial opens
As Jeffrey Howard Archer the 61-year-old appeared at the Old Bailey facing seven charges in total - four of perverting the course of justice, two counts of perjury and one of dishonesty.

Next to him in the dock was Ted Francis, facing one count of perverting the course of justice. Both men denied all the charges against them.

Ted Francis
Ted Francis: Fell out with Lord Archer
As the seven-week trial got underway, the jury heard how Archer asked his secretary to make false entries in a bogus diary for the 1987 trial.

Later, she told them how she bought expensive gifts for his mistress on her credit card in order to keep Archer's reputation "whiter than white".

Taped telephone conversations in which the peer admits he did not have the disputed 'alibi dinner' with Ted Francis were played to the court.

July 2001: Guilty verdict
Lord Archer was jailed for four years after being found guilty of perjury and perverting the course of justice.

The jury cleared him of one count of perjury and earlier in the trial he was found not guilty of dishonesty on the direction of the judge.

Calling it an "extremely distasteful case", the judge told Archer: "These charges represent as serious an offence of perjury as I have had experience of and have been able to find in the books."

As Archer was taken to begin his sentence at high-security Belmarsh prison in south east London, his solicitor announced that an appeal would be launched.

Mr Francis was found not guilty of the charge against him.

August 2001: Jail switch
Archer was initially classed as a Category D prisoner suitable for an open jail, but was graded Category C after Scotland Yard launched an inquiry into allegations that millions of pounds went missing from a fundraising campaign run by the peer.

Archer was therefore transferred from Belmarsh to the category C Wayland Prison in Norfolk, rather than an open jail.

I came in very naive about heroin, cocaine and crack, I am now becoming well informed

Jeffrey Archer
His wife protested his innocence and after two months he was moved to North Sea Camp open prison. An audit led by accountants KPMG cleared him of mismanaging the charitable funds.

He later told a newspaper that life in prison had taught him more about drugs than life outside ever did.

July 2002: Appeal bid
Claiming his trial was "unbalanced", Archer asked the High Court for permission to challenge his conviction or have his sentence reduced.

But three judges rejected the request and said the sentence handed down had not been overly harsh because of the serious nature of Archer's crime.

August 2002: Prison life
Archer made his first home visit from North Sea Camp shortly before it emerged he had signed a new three-book deal with Macmillan Publishers thought to be worth about 10m after parting company with his old publishers Harper Collins.

Archer was also mobbed by the media as he started a five-day-a-week job for the Theatre Royal in Lincoln.

He worked on community and charity projects during the day and returned to prison at night.

He took advantage of the drive to and from the theatre to stop off for take-aways at a Chinese restaurant and traditional fish and chip shop.

September 2002: Disaster strikes - again
The good life was brought to an abrupt halt when the Prison Service found out he and his wife attended a party at the home of former education and employment minister Gillian Shephard without permission.

Gillian Shephard
Gillian Shephard said she had no idea Archer broke rules
After being banned from leaving North Sea Camp during an investigation, Archer was then moved to the closed Lincoln Prison. Mary said her husband was ''extremely upset''.

More trouble loomed when it emerged Archer enjoyed a restaurant meal with a senior prison officer and a woman police officer.

The warder resigned - later saying it was for health reasons - while she was subject to a separate inquiry ordered by constabulary chiefs.

October 2002: Payback time
A High Court hearing revealed Archer had paid back more than 2.5m to the Daily Star newspaper, consisting of the original 500,000 award from the 1987 libel action plus 1.8m in further interest and costs.

Controversy raged when it emerged Archer was to publish a diary covering his first days in prison when, they revealed, he contemplated suicide.

There were claims he broke Prison Service rules by identifying some of his fellow prisoners, such as the murderers he rubbed shoulders with.

But Archer was said to think any punishment would be a "price worth paying" and his wife Mary said he believed his writings on drugs, paedophiles and prisoners on life sentences needed debating.

The diary, which is based on the three weeks he spent in London's top security Belmarsh jail, is released on Monday and will be serialised in the Mail.

Latest news


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

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |