'The fight is on for the Archer One'

In the wake of the Archer trial, top London barrister John Fuller-Carp (played by John Bird in the BBC comedy Chambers) kept his own, utterly reliable diary. Here, he reflects on the implications of the case, and asks why judges don't understand the problems of the rich
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The Independent Online

At a time when the nation has been transfixed by legal events at the Old Bailey, The Independent has obtained an extract from the private diaries of one of the country's best-known lawyers. This extract provides an invaluable insight into the Archer trial and its impending appeal, the wearing of wigs, and the great untold scandal of the underpayment of lawyers.


Everyone still seems obsessed with the result in the Archer trial and the scandal surrounding it. I, too, am outraged by the callous disregard for justice in this landmark case. Four years for perverting the course of justice! It is a disgrace. The offence itself is a dubious and really rather minor one.

It has always been my belief that there is a very thin line between the proper conduct of a case and this so-called "perverting the course of justice". If we are to start prosecuting important political figures and people for the odd white lie then the justice system could very rapidly fall into disrepute.

Discussed the Archer trial with colleagues at the Middle Temple and agreed that the key problem was that the trial judge had clearly failed to understand the very real problems of the super-rich. It saddens me greatly that so many of the country's judges are so very out of touch.

I have written today to Lord Archer care of Belmarsh Prison, expressing my strongly held views on his case. Am hopeful that I shall be instructed on the appeal. Suggested that I be remunerated on a contingency fee based upon a percentage of the money obtained from the Daily Star.

Upon reflection, this sad affair does raise an important point of principle in the conduct of litigation. If clients consulted their barrister earlier in the criminal process, advice could be given during the planning stage and this kind of unfortunate occurrence could be avoided.

It is a very sad reflection of our justice system that criminals are not encouraged to do this.


Telephoned the Bar Council today to put on record my views concerning the wearing of wigs and traditional court dress. I cannot understand why solicitors want barristers to abandon their wigs? How can it sensibly be suggested that a tightly knotted piece of horsehair worn on the head does anything other then lend a grandeur, dignity and solemnity to the head of the wearer? In these days of computers and mobile phones, the barrister's wig must surely be seen as more relevant than ever.

No reply from Belmarsh as yet.


It was with great and genuine sadness that I took my seat for luncheon at Claridges, opened my newspaper and read of another attack upon so called "fat cat" lawyers. I am increasingly concerned that the Government appears to be missing the point here.

It is utterly simplistic and very misguided to compare a barrister with a nurse. You are simply not comparing like with like. Allow me to clarify. The nurse's role is confined to the saving of life and the caring for the sick and distressed. The barrister is engaged in facilitating the fighting of disputes between individuals and corporate bodies. There is just no comparison.

The duck en croûte with red- onion marmalade was, incidentally, very passable.


Still no reply from Belmarsh Prison. Why has my letter not got through? I have never signed up to the conspiracy theory of life, but when a man as patently innocent as convicted prisoner FF8282 is unable to take legal advice from myself (either on a contingency-fee basis or on a rate of no more than £350 per hour), even the most impartial observer would have to conclude that there was something very seriously wrong.


To my astonishment, today's post brought no communication from Lord Archer. I telephoned the prison to demand an explanation. I find it quite extraordinary that a publicly funded institution is unprepared to accept a reverse-charge call. Have sent a phone card to Belmarsh together with my business card.

Having taken soundings, I have decided to launch a campaign – "Lawyers For Archer". After everything he has done for the Bar over the years, it seems only fitting that we, as a profession, should try to give something back to a man who may still be able to provide employment for many of us.

Finally got through to Belmarsh on the telephone, only to be told that Lord Archer was out and that they didn't know when he'd be back.


How things have changed at the Bar. These days, there is so much talk of human rights among barristers. I find it a very broad concept that in many ways does far more damage than good. What about Lord Archer's human rights? The right to embellish must surely be the right of every sensible person seeking public office? Perhaps an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights will finally end the injustice meted out to one of this country's finest men of letters.


Quite beyond my wildest hopes and expectations, there has been a massive groundswell of support for "Lawyers For Archer". Having contacted 1,000 of the country's leading QCs, the campaign now has a fighting fund of over £27. I have written to Lord Archer again today to tell him of the great news and seek his advice on the most appropriate means of holding and deploying this charitable fund.

Concerned that I am becoming emotionally involved in the Archer case. By way of a cure, spent time consulting the barrister's Code of Conduct on conflicts of interest, decided that it was OK to call the editor of the Daily Star to ask if they need a barrister for their upcoming case against "that toerag Archer". Think they liked my tone. It's good to have irons in the fire.


Was moved to hear that Lord Archer's dad had been tried at the Old Bailey. The thought of just how much this family has done to help the legal profession brought a tear to my eye. Must do something constructive. After much thought, sent a copy of the video of In The Name The Father to Lord A.


Finally, a note from FF8282. I am greatly concerned that he is in a distressed state. Surely there can be no other reason for the large number of spelling and grammatical mistakes? Four "p"s in "prostitute", three "q"s in "insider dealing", a "z" in the word "liar"?

I ask you, is this the sign of a man who has done wrong?


Bad news from Belmarsh. FF8282's application to become a "trustee" has been turned down. FF8282 says he will appeal both the decision itself and the appeal, and any appeal of that appeal. There are marked signs that his will to fight is ebbing away – he makes no mention of the appeal of the appeal of the appeal of the appeal. Great concern, this is so unlike him.


A ray of hope. There is talk of a rooftop protest at Belmarsh. Large numbers of inmates have threatened to climb the roof and remain there until FF8282 is given fair and equal treatment, and, like other inmates, is forbidden from writing a novel.


I fear that injustice is having a severe psychological effect on Lord Archer. His passionate claim that he was only prosecuted because he's black is not perhaps the strongest point in his appeal.

However, my resolve is stronger than ever. The greatest fight for justice this nation has ever known, the fight for what is being called, "the Archer One" has begun in earnest. I wonder if he'd consider a payment on account?

John Fuller-Carp was talking to Clive Coleman. 'Chambers' starring John Bird is showing on Sundays at 9.30pm on BBC1. You can contact John Fuller-Carp for legal advice at bbc.co.uk/comedy/chambers