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Saturday, 5 October, 2002, 08:53 GMT 09:53 UK
Archer to publish prison diaries
Archer and wife Mary
Archer and wife Mary at his Old Bailey perjury trial
Disgraced peer Jeffrey Archer is courting controversy by releasing a diary about his prison experiences while still in jail.

The millionaire novelist's latest book - A Prison Diary - is said to be a highly critical indictment of the British penal system and reveals he contemplated suicide.

Archer served the first three weeks of his four-year sentence for perjury in Belmarsh prison in south London - which the book subtitles as 'Belmarsh: Hell'.


I have a feeling that being allowed to write in this hellhole may turn out to be the one salvation that will keep me sane

Jeffrey Archer

But prison authorities have confirmed Archer could face disciplinary measures - including extra time in jail - if the contents of the book breach of prison rules.

While in jail he is banned from making money from writing and must not identify fellow inmates and wardens.

Publisher Macmillan confirmed Archer would not earn money from the book - due to be published next week - until after his release, but admitted some inmates had been identified.

The diary is being serialised in the Daily Mail from Monday, and payment is being donated to drug rehabilitation and victim support groups.

'Victimised'

The wife of the jailed peer, Mary Archer, has also been speaking to the newspaper, saying she felt her husband has been "victimised".

"I can only say that Jeffrey has suffered excessively," she said.

"I'm not saying that he didn't behave foolishly, but he's been the victim of several injustices. I don't like injustices.

"He has no one else to speak for him. I will stay in the front line for as long as it takes. I am his wife."

Archer's publisher said the ex-Tory MP decided to write the volume as a way of keeping himself sane while locked up.

Giving his reasons for writing the diary, Archer, who is half-way through his sentence, said: "I have a feeling that being allowed to write in this hellhole may turn out to be the one salvation that will keep me sane."

Excerpts

The book includes a section detailing when the former Tory party deputy chairman considered committing suicide with a razor blade.

"They've now supplied me with a Bic razor and I consider cutting my throat. But the thought of failure is just too awful to contemplate," he writes.

In another excerpt written on 23 July, 2001, four days after his sentencing, he describes a 17-year-old boy in the cell below him who has been charged with shoplifting.

Archer's book
Archer's book will be in the shops next week

Archer compares British jail conditions to those of Turkey and Kosovo and adds: "This same young man will now be spending at least a fortnight with murderers, rapists, burglars and drug addicts".

"Are these the best tutors he can learn from?"

Macmillan described the book as "a devastating indictment of the British penal system".

The book's release follows revelations that Archer had breached his daily release conditions at North Sea Camp open prison, where he was transferred after Belmarsh, by attending a lunch party thrown by former Tory Education Secretary Gillian Shephard.

He is now in the higher security Lincoln prison while the matter is being investigated.

Martin Narey, head of the Prison Service, said he had not seen the book yet but warned that if the famous inmate had not followed strict rules regarding prison writing he could be in for an even longer sentence.

Rules

Former Daily Mirror editor, Roy Greenslade, said the diary was a "remarkable" development.

He said: "It is a case of the Mail's editor taking a gamble and thinking perhaps his readers will appreciate this.

If he faces retribution for this it will be a disgrace

Richard Charkin, Macmillan

"Or will they think, as Lady Archer said of a different set of diaries last week, that this is a 'tremendous lapse of taste'".

Richard Charkin from Macmillan publishers said that some other prisoners were named but added: "Jeffrey is fully aware of the risks and wants to go ahead with publication".

"It is a very important book, the most important book he's written," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"If he faces retribution for this it will be a disgrace."

Earlier this week, a High Court hearing revealed that he has paid back more than 2.5m to the Daily Star newspaper.

The newspaper had sought to regain the 500,000 Archer was awarded in 1987 following a libel action against the Star.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Nick Higham
"Jeffery Archer's time inside has been full on incident"
Richard Charkin, MacMillan Publishers
"There is risk, he is fully aware of the risk"
Former Daily Mirror editor Roy Greenslade
"The Daily Mail's serialisation of these diaries is a remarkable development"
Prison Service Director General Martin Narey
"If the diaries are intelligent representations of the penal system I have no objection"

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26 Sep 02 | UK
13 Aug 02 | Entertainment
28 Sep 02 | Politics
26 Sep 02 | Politics
02 Oct 02 | UK
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