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Saturday, 28 September, 2002, 15:42 GMT 16:42 UK
Archer prison officer 'resigned sick'
Jeffrey Archer in the grounds of Lincolnshire
Archer worked at a theatre on day release
The prison warden who had lunch with Lord Archer while the peer was on day release has denied he resigned in disgrace.

Paul Hocking, who was head of security at the open prison in Lincolnshire, said he left on Thursday on the grounds of ill health.

Standing beside his solicitor who gave a statement on his behalf, Mr Hocking said he had been off sick for four weeks.

He also denied claims that he took gifts from a prisoner.

Paul Hocking
Hocking denies impropriety
It was thought he stepped down for breaking prison rules about socialising with prisoners.

Mr Hocking shared a meal at Zucchini's Italian restaurant in Lincoln while Lord Archer was on day release.

His solicitor, Peter Cropley, said: "He resigned from the prison service on the grounds of ill-health, having been off sick for four weeks prior to that date."

He also denied his client had ever accepted gifts or gratuities from inmates, and said he was considering legal action over comments that he had.

'Broke officer rules'

The statement was at odds with reasons given by his employer.

On Friday, a spokesman for the prison service said: "It is not permitted for serving prison officers to mix with prisoners outside the jail for anything but professional reasons and only with the permission of the governor."

Colleagues told the BBC that he should have known it was against the rules to have lunch with an inmate without permission.

Lincoln Prison
Archer is now in Lincoln Prison
Mr Hocking was based at North Sea Camp open prison, from where Lord Archer was allowed out to work at a theatre close to Zucchini's restaurant.

He had a 30-year career in the prison service before rising to the rank of head of security at North Sea Camp.

Archer has been moved to a higher security prison for committing a "serious breach of trust" by attending a party at the home of former Tory Cabinet minister Gillian Shephard.

On Friday, Lady Archer said she was sorry Mr Hocking had lost his job after having lunch with her husband and a female police officer.

Police chiefs in Lincolnshire have ordered a separate inquiry into the unnamed police officer's presence.

Lord Archer was jailed for four years at the Old Bailey in July last year after being convicted of perjury and perverting the course of justice.

See also:

28 Sep 02 | Politics
26 Sep 02 | Politics
26 Sep 02 | UK
20 Aug 02 | UK
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