Archer jury takes a trip to 1987 libel court

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The Independent Online

The jury in the Lord Archer perjury trial made legal history yesterday, when it became the first in a criminal trial to visit the High Court. The six men and six women were taken from the Old Bailey to Court 13 of the High Court in The Strand, central London, where Lord Archer won his libel trial against the Daily Star newspaper in 1987.

Led by the Old Bailey Judge, Mr Justice Potts, Lord Archer, his co-defendant Ted Francis, their lawyers and the jury entered the chamber to test claims by the Daily Star's barrister, Michael Hill QC. Mr Hill, who represented the Daily Star in the original libel trial, last week told the Old Bailey that he would have cross-examined witnesses more vigorously in 1987 had he been able to see the diaries that Archer allegedly forged to provide an alibi.

But he said that because of the court's layout he was unable to see clearly the diary because the witness box was at another level and the court had been "like a cattle market".

After they filed into court, the jurors were encouraged to explore the courtroom ­ a sharp contrast to modern surroundings of the Old Bailey ­ so they could imagine themselves sat as Archer, Mr Hill and the late libel judge, Mr Justice Caulfield, in the original trial.

The judge explained the layout of the court. Then one juror sat in the witness box, while others stood in Mr Hill's place during the 40-minute inspection. The jury observed that the witness box was higher than the well of the court, where lawyers usually sat, but at the same level as the judge and the jury. Mr Justice Potts told the jurors that questions they had asked would be dealt with next week.

Archer denies four counts of perverting the course of justice, two counts of perjury and one of using a diary as a false instrument. Retired television producer Francis denies one charge of perverting the course of justice. The trial continues on 26 June.