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The BBC's Carole Walker reports
"First night at home under curfew"
 real 28k

Ex Guardian Editor Peter Preston
"I think he just wants to go away and get on with his life"
 real 28k

Friday, 7 January, 2000, 12:35 GMT
Aitken freed from prison

Jonathan Aitken will be subject to a 7pm to 7am curfew


Former Cabinet minister Jonathan Aitken has been released from prison - but will have to wear an electronic tag on his ankle for two months.

Aitken walked out of the prison wearing casual clothes and carrying a black plastic bag containing his personal belongings shortly after 0800 GMT on Friday.

He was picked up by a friend, who later dropped off the bag at Aitken's Westminster home.

But Aitken himself is believed to have left the car near Victoria station, in central London, dodging the waiting media outside his Westminster home.

Seven months

He has served almost seven months of his 18-month sentence for perjury and perverting the course of justice, and now is believed to want to study theology.

An assistant to Mr Aitken delivers his belongings to his home
Lady Penelope Aitken, his mother, told reporters waiting outside his home that she had spoken to her son that morning.

She said her son was very well and he was glad to be coming out of prison.

Lady Aitken said: "He is not coming home and he doesn't want to be disturbed."

A former chief secretary to the Treasury in the last Conservative government, Aitken fell from grace when it emerged he lied about a stay at the Ritz Hotel in Paris during libel proceedings against The Guardian newspaper and the World in Action television series.

He was jailed in June and sent to Standford Hill open jail on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent.

Just before the New Year he was switched to Elmley, a nearby closed prison, after warders discovered a plot to drug him, strip him and take compromising photographs.

Electronic tag The former cabinet minister will have to wear a tag
Aitken, 57, now faces a 7pm to 7am curfew, which will be monitored by electronic equipment installed in his Westminster home.

He was meeting officials from the tagging company, who were fitting the equipment, at his home later on Friday.

The monitoring device, which is attached to a telephone line, will alert security staff if he leaves his five-storey Georgian town house during the curfew hours.

Aitken had once been tipped as a future leader of the Conservative Party, but friends say he has coped well with his dramatic fall from grace, and accepts he has no future in public life.

Religious interest

The former MP has reportedly signed up for a two-year theology course at Oxford University and is said to want to spend his future writing and studying.

Richard Shepherd, Tory MP for Aldridge Brownhills, who visited his friend in prison, said he doubted if Aitken would pursue a future in the priesthood.

He said: "My understanding is that he is going to read theology and there are personal and financial matters to settle.

"I know he is interested in religion - he is a devout Christian - but I don't think he will join the priesthood."

Peter Preston, who was editor of The Guardian when it first made the allegations which triggered Aitken's downfall, said the newspaper and Granada TV were still owed more than 1m.

He said: "For myself I hope Jonathan Aitken comes out of prison quietly, gets back to some kind of normal life, perhaps make some money from writing, and that we can all forget about it."

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See also:
30 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
Aitken returns to prison
07 Jan 00 |  e-cyclopedia
Electronic tagging: A virtual prison?
08 Jun 99 |  UK Politics
Aitken: A glittering career cut short
25 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
Christmas mass for Aitken and family
09 Jun 99 |  UK Politics
Aitken's 'eternal shame' about lies
08 Jun 99 |  UK Politics
Jail sentence for Aitken

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