Aitken letters sale `not attractive'

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AN ATTEMPT to sell the private letters of the jailed former Tory cabinet minister Jonathan Aitken by his trustees in bankruptcy was described as "not a very attractive proposition" by a High Court judge yesterday.

Mr Justice Rattee, who was dealing with the first application by any trustees to try to sell private correspondence to raise cash for creditors, said: "Did Parliament really intend that solely by becoming bankrupt one laid oneself open to public scrutiny of one's private affairs?" He said Aitken, 57, who is serving 18 months for perjury, had said in a sworn statement to the court that publication of the correspondence may cause "embarrassment" to MPs or world leaders.

The judge said any letters that threatened Aitken's personal reputation and affected his daily life could not be published by law. "Mr Aitken said some of the letters showed he was informing on colleagues and that goes to his reputation," he said.

Baker Tilly, the trustees, want the papers sold to help to pay Aitken's main creditors, The Guardian and Granada Television. The former MP resigned from the Cabinet in 1995 to fight a libel action against them, which he abandoned after a jury was told he had been lying over a visit to the Ritz Hotel in Paris.

At the hearing yesterday, at which Aitken was not present, it emerged he had used the disputed correspondence to write an autobiography of his downfall, Pride and Perjury.

The case continues.