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Tuesday, June 8, 1999 Published at 12:56 GMT 13:56 UK

UK Politics

Aitken awaits sentence

Camera crews and photographers greeted Jonathan Aitken at court

Ex-Cabinet minister Jonathan Aitken is at the Old Bailey where he will be sentenced for perjury and perverting the course of justice.

The BBC's Carole Walker reports on the most dramatic of political downfalls
The former Conservative MP admitted both charges earlier in the year, following the collapse of his libel case against The Guardian and World in Action.

He spoke only briefly during the hearing. Asked to confirm his name was Jonathan William Patrick Aitken, he replied: "It is."

Former Defence Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind - who was Aitken's boss when he was defence procurement minister - attended the court to give evidence on Aitken's character.

David Waters QC, prosecuting, said: "It is fair to say between 1992-95, there is evidence to show that he was a hard-working and conscientious minister."

But Aitken himself has said he expects to go to jail after sentence is passed.

[ image:  ]
Perverting the course of justice carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, while perjury can be punished by up to seven years in jail.

A prison sentence would complete the downfall of a man who previously boasted a £3m fortune and could expect a glittering career in politics or business.

The BBC's Andy Tighe: "His lawyer has said he didn't mean to lie"
Far from fulfilling his promise to "cut out the cancer of bent and twisted journalism", Aitken's libel action succeeded only in destroying almost every aspect of his life.

Debt collectors took his Rolex watch and cufflinks, among other possessions from his house last week in an effort to recoup his outstanding £2m legal costs.

Aitken, 56, has now declared himself bankrupt and claims to have only £40,000 left in the world.

His £1.5m Westminster home was transferred to his former wife as part of their divorce settlement, although he has continued to live there.

His mother, Lady Aitken, said his fortune has diminished in line with his reputation.

"It's exactly as if he's been imprisoned for the last two years. He's had everything taken away from him. He hasn't been able to make money, had no job."

[ image: Aitken pleaded guilty to the charges]
Aitken pleaded guilty to the charges
In a documentary to be screened on Sunday, Channel 4's The Real Jonathan Aitken, Lady Aitken said: "I've lived long enough to know that you should never depend on anything, because the moment you begin to believe in anything, you're immediately cast out and down to the bottom again.

"But Jonathan was sailing fair when he went into the Cabinet and had the Conservative Party gone on perhaps he would [have become Prime Minister]."

Despite the scandal that has engulfed her son, Lady Aitken said she felt "so proud" at how he had coped.

"I think anybody who has had to stick through what he's had to stick through and come through it, really thinking about other people all the time, and not for one minute giving up, is terrific.

"All power to him I say. I'm so proud of him. I'm amazed at his backbone in this.

"He really is too good a man, too good a character to have to suffer all this.

"I know he has brought some of it on himself. Hopefully, it's just a blip, an awful blip."

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