Archer launches his appeal to quash conviction

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The Independent Online

The disgraced Tory peer Jeffrey Archer started an appeal yesterday against his conviction for lying to a court during his 1987 libel action against the Daily Star over claims he slept with a prostitute.

Archer, 61, is serving a four-year jail sentence after an Old Bailey jury found him guilty last month of perjury and perverting the course of justice.

Appeal papers were filed with the registry at the Court of Appeal in the Strand, London, one day before the 28-day deadline for lodging an appeal.

Archer now has to win leave to appeal from a single appeal court judge who will study his application and transcripts of the original trial. If that judge allows the appeal to proceed, Archer's case will be heard by three Court of Appeal judges.

The process can take several months, but Archer's application might be fast-tracked because of his relatively short sentence and the high-profile nature of the case.

Archer's office and his solicitors, Mishcon de Reya, both refused to comment on the grounds of the appeal.

The former Conservative Party deputy chairman was jailed on 19 July after an Old Bailey jury unanimously found him guilty of two charges of perjury and two charges of perverting the course of justice.

Mr Justice Potts said he would have to serve at least two years and would remain on licence for the whole sentence. He was ordered to pay costs of £175,000 within 12 months

Archer had denied all the charges against him relating to the 1987 libel trial in which he won £500,000 from the Daily Star over allegations that he slept with a prostitute, Monica Coghlan. He was cleared of one count of perverting the course of justice.

Immediately after the verdict, the Daily Star issued a writ against him for £2.2m, and the News of the World – which had settled with him for £50,000 in 1987 over a story that claimed he had given money to Ms Coghlan – announced it was seeking £300,000.

Archer began his sentence at the high-security Belmarsh prison in south-east London, but was transfered last week to the lower security Wayland jail, near Watton in Norfolk. The fact that the peer has a home in Cambridgeshire as well as London prompted claims of special treatment. Wayland is relatively close to his family home. Some prisoners are kept many miles from their relatives.

Although he was initially expected to be moved to an open prison he has been placed in a higher-security jail because of a police investigation into his 1991 Simple Truth fund-raising campaign in aid of the Iraqi Kurds. Archer has been classed as a "category C" prisoner, meaning he is viewed as an inmate "who cannot be trusted in open conditions but does not have the resources and the will to make a determined escape attempt".

Archer's co-defendant and former friend Ted Francis, who was also charged with perverting the course of justice, was found not guilty last month. He and Archer were charged after the News of the World revealed in November 1999 that an alibi Mr Francis was ready to provide for the peer in the 1987 libel trial was a fabrication.

During the seven-week trial that ended last month, the jury was told that Archer procured a false alibi from Mr Francis to help to undermine the Star's allegation that he paid Ms Coghlan for sex, and forced his personal assistant, Angela Peppiatt, to forge a diary.