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Last Updated: Monday, 12 November 2007, 08:03 GMT
Aitken to lead study on prisons
Jonathan Aitken
Mr Aitken's appointment will be formally unveiled on Monday
Disgraced former Cabinet minister Jonathan Aitken, who was jailed for perjury, is to lead a study into prison reform for a social policy group.

He will head a taskforce for Iain Duncan Smith's Centre for Social Justice, which gives advice to Tory leader David Cameron issues.

Mr Aitken was jailed in 1999 for perjury during a libel action which he had left the Cabinet to fight.

He told the BBC that "poachers" sometimes made "useful gamekeepers".

He told BBC Radio 4's Today on Monday that among the ideas he would look at to cut reoffending rates was post-release mentoring, as used in New Zealand and some parts of the US.

He said they would be looking at "more community involvement in prisons, more volunteers coming in to help with literacy of prisoners or the after-care of prisoners".

'Heavy price'

Asked if he was making a political comeback, he replied: "No, and I don't ever expect to.

"I made a bad mistake - I paid a heavy price for it and I expect to go on paying a price for it. "And that's life and I have to live with that."

Mr Aitken earlier told the Observer newspaper: "It is an assignment well worth taking extremely seriously.

"This isn't an ego trip for me. This is a job to be done. I have a very good team who I think will help to do it well."

Mr Aitken resigned as chief secretary to the Treasury in 1995 so he could sue the Guardian over allegations that a Saudi businessman had paid for him to stay at the Paris Ritz in breach of ministerial rules.

There was a personal rehabilitation for Jonathan Aitken during his time in jail
Nick Wood
Centre for Social Justice

Launching the action, he insisted that the "simple sword of truth" would help him win.

But the case collapsed in 1997 and Mr Aitken was later found guilty of perjury and perverting the course of justice in 1999.

He served almost seven months of his 18-month sentence before being released in January 2000.

Former Tory leader Mr Duncan Smith will formally unveil the appointment on Monday.

'Direct experience'

Nick Wood, media adviser to the Centre for Social Justice, told the BBC: "There was a personal rehabilitation for Jonathan Aitken during his time in jail.

"He has written about this, he has talked about it and he has campaigned for prison reform."

Explaining Mr Duncan Smith's thinking, he said: "One of the things that Iain is keen on is that people leading political groups should have some direct experience of the subjects they are working on.

"I think Jonathan Aitken certainly has the experience of jail and he has shown a great deal of thought and interest in it since."

Peter Preston, who edited the Guardian at the time of the court case, told BBC 5 Live that Mr Aitken's appointment could send out the wrong signals.

"Basically, had we lost on all that false testimony, we would have been out as an organisation well over 1m in damages and legal costs."

A Conservative Party spokeswoman said: "The CSJ and the Conservative Party are two separate entities and they make their appointments independently.

"The CSJ has done some excellent work for us in the past and we look forward to seeing more of their findings in due course."

Reaction to Jonathan Aitken's appointment

Disgraced Tory Aitken backs UKIP
04 Jun 04 |  UK Politics
Howard blocks Aitken's comeback
06 Feb 04 |  UK Politics
Aitken bids for Commons return
06 Feb 04 |  UK Politics
Aitken: Pride was my downfall
17 Jul 02 |  Politics

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