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Friday, 6 July, 2001, 15:31 GMT 16:31 UK
Archer's silence 'due to faded memory'
Lord Archer
Archer: The libel trial was 14 years ago
Lord Archer did not give evidence in his Old Bailey perjury trial because his memory of the events from 14 years ago had faded, his lawyer has told the jury.

On Thursday prosecutor David Waters QC had urged the jury to consider why a "gifted communicator" like Lord Archer had not taken the stand.

Nicholas Purnell QC, defending, said the 14-year delay in bringing the allegations to court had triggered a string of "deficiencies, difficulties and impediments" in the trial.

Lord Archer with one of his sons on Thursday
Lord Archer was accompanied by his sons and wife for a second day
The delay meant he was unable to call vital witnesses, and resulted in difficulties with evidence, he said.

Witnesses had died, documents from the 1987 High Court libel action were destroyed, and memories had faded, he said.

He added: "The difficulty is for anyone to identify now, 14 years later, that which is a true memory of what took place in 1987 from a recalled, an embroidered, a developed and a faulty memory, because simply by the fluctuation of time people forget.

"The effect of that delay on Jeffrey Archer's case is his capacity to defend himself."

Taped conversation

Mr Purnell said the allegations surfaced in 1999 when the News of the World published details of a telephone conversation between Lord Archer and his former friend Ted Francis.

"For its own commercial purposes, the newspaper profits by the telephone transcribing exercise and then reports the matter to the police," he said.

Being a bloody fool does not make you a criminal

Nicholas Purnell QC
Referring to Lord Archer's withdrawal from the race to be Mayor of London after the Tory peer admitted asking Mr Francis for an alibi, Mr Purnell said: "Being a bloody fool may be a male prerogative.

"But being a bloody fool does not make you a criminal. It may make you do things you regret."

Lord Archer has admitted asking Mr Francis to provide him with an alibi but said it was done to protect his mistress, Andrina Colquhoun, and was unconnected to the libel trial.

Mr Purnell told the jury to be suspicious of the taped telephone conversation.

Monica Coghlan
Monica Coghlan died in a car crash earlier this year
"It is an exercise which was embarked upon for commercial reasons for an organisation which was intent on bringing down a man they had commercial reason for bringing down," Mr Purnell said.

He added: "It was designed to topple a man who the Conservatives were putting forward as mayoral candidate."

Mr Purnell said Mr Francis was a man who "had been drawn into the web by the News of the World, financially persuaded to enter into it and finds himself standing in the dock in the Central Criminal Court."

He reminded the jury that the newspaper had agreed to pay Mr Francis' legal bill at the end of the trial.

Earlier Mr Purnell stressed to the jury that a defendant "cannot change, by a failure to go in the witness box, the burden of proof".

He said: "The burden of proof is on the prosecution from beginning to end."

Jury due to retire

The jury is due to retire at the end of next week to consider verdicts on six charges against Lord Archer.

The 61-year-old peer denies six charges of perverting the course of justice, perjury and using a diary as a false instrument.

Ted Francis
Ted Francis denies perverting the course of justice
Lord Archer has been cleared, on the direction of the judge, of a further charge of perverting the course of justice.

His co-defendant, retired television producer Mr Francis, 67, of Cranleigh, Surrey, denies one charge of perverting the course of justice.

The charges relate to his successful 1987 libel action against the Daily Star, which had claimed he had slept with prostitute Monica Coghlan.

The trial was adjourned until Monday.

The BBC's Rory Maclean
"Nicholas Purnell QC told the jury Lord Archer had been subjected to a carefully planned scenario in 1999"
The BBC's Duncan Kennedy
on the issue of Lord Archer not going into the witness box
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06 Jul 01 | UK
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