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2000: Aitken freed from prison early

Former Cabinet minister Jonathan Aitken has been released from jail after serving less than half of his 18-month sentence

Aitken, 57, was convicted of perjury and perverting the course of justice in June last year, after the collapse of his libel action against The Guardian newspaper and Granada television in 1997.

He left Elmley prison alone carrying his belongings in a black bin liner just after 08.00 GMT.

Aitken is to be electronically tagged for two months to ensure that he complies with a curfew that confines him to his house between 07.00am and 07.00pm every day.

Aitken declared bankrupt

The former chief secretary to the Treasury in the last Conservative government, Aitken did not speak to press outside the prison and managed to avoid them when he got back to his Westminster home.

He spent the majority of the seven months that he was imprisoned in Standford Hill open jail on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent.

Just before the New Year he was moved to the closed prison at Elmley when officers at Standford Hill discovered a plot by other inmates to drug and photograph Aitken in compromising positions.

He still owes The Guardian and Granada over 1m of the 2m legal costs they incurred during the 1997 libel trial where it emerged Aitken had lied about a stay in the Ritz Hotel in Paris.

Having amassed a personal fortune of 3m Aitken was declared bankrupt in June 1999 as a result of escalating legal costs and an expensive divorce settlement.

An old Etonian and Oxford graduate, tipped for Conservative leadership, Aitken now recognises that he has no future in public life and has enrolled on a two year theology course at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford University.

In Context
In October 2000 Jonathan Aitken began his theology course at Oxford, living as a frugal student in a single room.

Although his course enables him to enter the priesthood, Aitken has said that he does not intend to do this, but hopes to earn money through writing.

Despite selling his 2m central London house and raising 16,000 with an auction of his personal possessions, Aitken was still only able to repay less than half of the 1.5m owed to The Guardian. They agreed a lower settlement.


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