Archer silence may go against him, judge tells jury

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The Independent Online

The jury in the trial of Jeffrey Archer "may draw the conclusion" that he refused to give evidence in his own defence because "he has no answer to the prosecution's case", the judge said in his summing up yesterday.

Lord Archer of Weston-super-Mare had also refused to answer questions from the police when he was arrested on charges of perjury and perverting the course of justice, Mr Justice Potts told the Old Bailey.

The judge stated that the former deputy chairman of the Conservative Party was within his legal rights not to answer police questions or to go into the witness box. But, he pointed out, the silence "may count against him".

The judge also instructed the jury that the Crown only had to prove one of three accusations in relation to a diary produced to support Lord Archer's case when he successfully sued the Daily Star newspaper, and won £500,000 in damages, over claims that he had sex with a prostitute, Monica Coghlan.

The judge pointed out that Lord Archer has accepted a diary produced by his former personal assistant, Angela Peppiatt, was genuine. That diary stated that the Tory peer had dinner with his film agent, Terence Baker, on the night of 9 September 1986 at Le Caprice restaurant in Mayfair. In the 1987 trial both Lord Archer and Mr Baker had claimed they met on the evening of the 8 September at another restaurant, the Sambuca, and then did not see each other for several months afterwards.

The judge asked the jury to consider "what the consequences would have been in the libel trial if this page in the diary had been available to the judge and the jury".

Lord Archer was, unusually, allowed to leave the dock yesterday afternoon.The judge told the jury that the reason "is nothing to do with the case".

Mr Justice Potts said: "The defendant is not required to answer questions, that is his right. The defendant is not required to give evidence, it is his right not to give evidence. You must not assume that he is guilty because he has not given evidence.

"But you will appreciate that a defendant who has not given evidence has said nothing in the trial to undermine, contradict or explain the evidence put before you by the prosecution. A defendant's silence at his trial may count against him. This is because you may draw the conclusion that he is not giving evidence because he has no answer to the prosecution's case or none that would bear examination.

"You may draw such a conclusion against him only if ... you are satisfied about two things – first, that the prosecution case is so strong that it clearly calls for an answer by him, and second that the only sensible explanation for his silence is that he has no answer, or none that would bear examination."

One of the charges against Lord Archer of "using a false instrument" was dropped at the judge's instructions. He said that it "added nothing" to a charge of perverting the course of justice.

The number of jurors was reduced to 11 after one woman was discharged because of "compelling family reasons".

Lord Archer, 61, pleads not guilty to three counts of perverting the course of justice and two charges of perjury. His fellow defendant, the television producer Ted Francis, 67, denies one charge of perverting the course of justice.