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Saturday, 5 October, 2002, 17:54 GMT 18:54 UK
Critics attack Archer prison diary
Jeffrey Archer
Archer could face disciplinary action
Disgraced author Jeffrey Archer has attracted widespread condemnation for "going public" on his prison experiences.

His decision to publish a book on his life behind bars could leave him open to disciplinary action if it is found to have breached prison rules.

The Prison Service's Director General, Martin Narey, said he would take legal advice to determine whether the jailed peer had done anything wrong.

A decision by the Daily Mail to publish excerpts from his book is to be referred to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC).

Martin Narey
Narey: book will be closely reviewed
According to publisher, Macmillan, the book, A Prison Diary, names fellow inmates - which is strictly forbidden by prison rules.

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.

But, under strict Prison Service rules, an inmate is not allowed to identify any other prisoner in literature, describe his or any other prisoner's crime or be paid for work.

Mr Narey told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he had not yet seen the contents of the book and no judgments on possible disciplinary action would be made until he knew what it included.

But he said: "He can't make money while he is a serving prisoner from publications and I have a duty to protect the privacy of other prisoners and members of staff.

"He has to respect that."

Charity donation

If Archer was found to have broken the rules, he could face disciplinary action, Mr Narey said.

This could result in extra days being added to his sentence.

Macmillan has denied Archer profited from his crime and said he had received no advance for the work.

He needs to...get off the front of our national newspapers and start to serve his sentence

Mark Leech, Institute of Prison Law

He has also instructed the payment for serialisation be donated to drug rehabilitation and victim support groups.

But Labour MP Peter Bradley believes the Mail's decision to print the diaries is in breach of the press code of conduct.

The code prohibits payments for stories to convicts or self-confessed criminals unless the story is in the public interest and cannot be obtained any other way.

Mr Bradley, who is MP for The Wrekin, said: "Even if Archer doesn't benefit from the serialisation, it is ultimately promoting the sale of his books, from which he certainly will benefit.

Suicide thoughts

"It would be extraordinarily difficult to demonstrate that there is an overpowering public interest in Archer's writings.

"If he felt compelled to publish them, he could have done so on his release."

Archer, who is half-way through his sentence, said being allowed to write "in this hellhole" might turn out to be the one salvation keeping him sane.


Anyone should have the right to free speech...and they should be free to talk about what is happening around them in prison

Frances Crook, Howard League
In the book, the former Tory party deputy chairman compares prison conditions with Turkey or Kosovo and admits considering 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.

Mark Leech, director of the Institute of Prison Law, told BBC news: "What he needs to do is get off the front of our national newspapers and start to serve his sentence.

"It will do him absolutely no good next summer when the parole board meet, to have this constant battle in the media.

"I don't think that will do his parole application any good at all."

Newspaper 'gamble'

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.

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

Tory MP Ann Widdecombe, a former Prisons Minister, commented: "There is a very clear rule that nobody could profit from their crimes and for the avoidance of doubt Jeffrey should say he is donating the proceeds to charity."

Norman Brennan, the director of the Victims of Crime Trust, said Archer was "making a mockery of the criminal justice system".

"He is a common criminal who has committed a serious criminal offence for which he has been rightly sentenced to a term of imprisonment."

The Howard League for Penal Reform believes inmates should be entitled to highlight any concerns they have on the prison system as long as they respect the confidentiality of others.

Director or the Howard League Frances Crook said: "Anyone should have the right to free speech and free expression and they should be free to talk about what is happening around them in prison."


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02 Oct 02 | UK
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