THE ARCHER AFFAIR: 'Daily Star' will lodge appeal after demanding pounds 3m compensation

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The Independent Online
AS SENIOR officers at Scotland Yard met yesterday to discuss their next move in the case, speculation grew that even if Lord Archer of Weston-super-Mare is not prosecuted on criminal charges, he could still face millions of pounds in damages from a civil action.

The Daily Star, which Lord Archer successfully sued for pounds 500,000 plus costs in 1987, has lodged an official complaint with police over his admission that he asked a friend, Ted Francis, to lie on his behalf.

Last night the newspaper announced that it was to appeal against the 1987 libel trial verdict. Peter Hill, the newspaper's editor, said that this could result in charges of conspiracy to commit perjury and attempting to pervert the course of justice. Officers from the Organised Crime Group, responsible for conducting a similar investigation into lies told by Jonathan Aitken, are understood to have met yesterday to discuss the allegations.

But Mr Hill also demanded in a front-page leader column in yesterday's paper that Lord Archer pay pounds 3m in recompense. "Today we have a message for Lord Archer: We want our money back. With interest," he said. Mr Hill added that he believed that some form of legal action against Lord Archer was inevitable.

"When you go to court you expect that all the evidence will be heard and you expect the truth will be told. But in fact, all the evidence was not heard, because if the jury had known that Jeffrey Archer had persuaded his friend to lie for him, they wouldn't have been prepared to believe the rest of the things that he said."

The paper, which is owned by Express Newspapers, would be pursuing the issue, he insisted. Legal experts said that while criminal charges were unlikely, a civil case could probably be brought.

Mark Stephens, of the London media law firm Stephens Innocent, thought that while the police would investigate the matter thoroughly, a case of attempting to pervert the course of justice would not even get into court.

"I suspect that at the end of the day the Crown Prosecution Service will say that there is a less than a 50 per cent chance of a successful prosecution - these cases are notoriously difficult to make stick - and in those circumstances we will not see Jeffrey Archer in jail," said Mr Stephens.

But he added that the Daily Star's owners could launch a "conspiracy to injure" suit, even though the lies were never heard in court. "If Express Newspapers can show that Mr Francis and Lord Archer conspired to 'injure' the newspaper then they can be made to pay back the pounds 500,000, plus interest. After 12 years that is a hell of a lot of money."

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