[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 June, 2003, 16:52 GMT 17:52 UK
Archer to leave prison next month
Lord Archer
Archer was jailed in July 2001
Disgraced peer Jeffrey Archer is to be granted parole allowing him to leave prison next month.

Archer, who received a four year jail sentence for perjury, will be eligible to leave prison on 19 July.

The decision was taken by the parole board on Wednesday and Archer was informed of the decision by the governor of Hollesey Bay prison in Suffolk.

He was convicted of perjury for lying during his successful 1987 libel trial against the Daily Star and sent to jail in July 2001.

Archer had been accused by the tabloid of sleeping with prostitute Monica Coghlan.

While serving his sentence he has courted controversy by publishing his prison diaries, lunching in a string of Lincoln restaurants while on day release from open prison.

He also got into trouble for attending a party at the home of Tory MP Gillian Shepherd on the way back to prison from his address in Cambridgeshire.

Singled out?

Mary Archer, the peer's wife, recently went on a PR offensive in a documentary about her life with her husband.

She claimed he had been unfairly vilified and singled out because of who he was.

Mary Archer
Mary Archer has defended her husband
But Mark Leech, the editor of the Prisons Handbook and founder of the former offenders' charity Unlock, said Archer had received "favourable" treatment.

"Favouritism has been a constant feature of his time inside - the 'Old Boys Network' seems to be alive and well at the Home Office," he said.

"To be frank I am astonished that Lord Archer has been granted his first parole, given the fact that he breached his temporary release licence while on leave from North Sea Camp and was returned as a result to closed conditions.

"Be that as it may, I wish him well on his release."

A Home Office spokewoman said that the decision to release Archer was "entirely a matter for the parole board".

She added: "The Home Office has always maintained that neither the home secretary or any other ministers have sought to interfere in any parole board decision - today's ruling demonstrates that fact unequivocally.

"Jeffrey Archer has always been treated fairly by the Prison Service, accusations that he has receive preferential treatment are completely without foundation."

Justified?

Probation union Napo's assistant general secretary, Harry Fletcher, said: "This decision seems justified in all the circumstances.

"The prime concern of the parole board is whether the individual poses a risk to the public, a risk of reoffending or a risk of physical or mental harm."

Three decades ago Archer was a Tory MP until he quit when a misguided investment left him facing financial ruin.

But he bounced back, turning to writing and became a best-selling novelist.

During the 1980s he was made deputy chairman of the Conservative Party but again had to quit when he was linked with Ms Coghlan.

In the late 1990s the then Tory leader William Hague backed Archer to become the Conservative mayoral candidate for London.

Archer had assured Mr Hague that there were no skeletons in his closet as he sought to win the Tory candidature.

Regret

It then emerged that he had committed perjury.

Mr Hague has subsequently said that he wished he had stopped Archer at an earlier stage when he was asked what was the one thing he would change about his leadership.

A spokesman for the parole board said: "Our job of risk assessment is now over - the details of release are now entirely a matter for the prison and probation services.

"In considering any parole application, the board takes account of the seriousness of the offence which led to conviction and the risk of further offences during the parole period."

The spokesman added: "The bottom line, however, of any parole board decision is the risk to the public of any further offence during the time when the offender would otherwise be in prison."




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Andy Tighe
"Even while he was in prison, Lord Archer continued to make the headlines"



SEE ALSO:
Archer jailed for perjury
19 Jul 01  |  UK News
Archer a victim of 'injustice'
12 May 03  |  Politics
Ted Francis: Archer whistleblower
19 Jul 01  |  UK News



PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific