Aitken sentenced to 18 months' jail

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The Independent Online
JONATHAN AITKEN, the disgraced former Tory minister, was jailed for 18 months at the Old Bailey yesterday after he pleaded guilty to perjury and attempting to pervert the course of justice.

The sentence marks the final stage in Aitken's spectacular fall from grace, which, the court heard, has already cost him his marriage, his home and seen him declared bankrupt.

Mr Justice Scott Baker said: "For nearly four years you wove a web of deceit in which you entangled yourself and from which there was no way out unless you were prepared to come clean and tell the truth. Unfortunately you were not."

The offences date back to a failed libel action against The Guardian newspaper and Granada television, who had alleged improprieties against Aitken when he was the minister for defence procurement. He later admitted trying to cover up the fact that the Saudi royal family had paid the bill for a weekend stay at the Paris Ritz in September 1993.

He had told the libel hearing that his wife had paid, and had drafted a witness statement for his daughter Victoria, then 16. The case collapsed in 1997 after it was proved that neither had been in France at the time.

When launching the action two years earlier, he had pledged "to cut out the cancer of bent and twisted journalism in our country with the simple sword of truth and the trusty shield of British fair play".

But he was a changed man yesterday, looking nervous as the judge addressed him.

"Perjury and perverting the course of justice are serious offences because they strike at justice itself," said Mr Justice Scott Baker. It was calculated perjury "You swept others, including members of your family, into it, and most particularly one of your daughters who was only 16 at the time."

Aitken blew his family a kiss as he was taken down. His twin daughters, Victoria and Alexandra, broke down in tears.

William Hague said: "It is a personal tragedy, but the law must take its course."