Lord Archer charged with perjury over friend's alibi claim in libel trial

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Indy Politics

Lord Archer of Weston-super-Mare, the former deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, was charged yesterday with perjury and perverting the course of justice over claims that he asked a friend to provide a false alibi during a libel trial in 1987.

Lord Archer of Weston-super-Mare, the former deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, was charged yesterday with perjury and perverting the course of justice over claims that he asked a friend to provide a false alibi during a libel trial in 1987.

The millionaire author was charged at Wimbledon police station, south-east London, after a 10-month investigation headed by Detective Superintendent Geoff Hunt, the man who led the perjury prosecution of the disgraced former minister Jonathan Aitken.

The charges - two of perjury, two of perverting the course of justice and one of using a false document - came on the day Lord Archer made his senior stage debut in his new play, The Accused, in which he plays a doctor on trial for poisoning his wife. At the end of the production, the audience votes on his innocence or guilt.

Executives at the Theatre Royal in Windsor, Berkshire, insisted the timing was coincidental but ticket sales were understood to be booming yesterday in anticipation of a national tour and a West End run.

The five charges follow claims that Lord Archer asked a former friend, Ted Francis, a television producer, to concoct an alibi for him before successfully suing the Daily Star, which suggested he had had sex with the prostitute Monica Coghlan, something he always denied. Lord Archer was awarded £500,000 damages.

Mr Francis, who has also been charged with perverting the course of justice, told a newspaper last year that he had agreed to provide the alibi, although he was not required to give evidence at the hearing. Both men will appear at Bow Street magistrates' court, central London, next Tuesday.

Lee Menzies, who funded and produced The Accused, said: "These charges change nothing. Lord Archer is under contract. He has a job of work to do. The show must go on. He is doing tremendously well. His performances have been spot-on."

Mr Menzies agreed the extra publicity had helped to sell out the first two performances in record time, but he added: "This was a complete coincidence. We set the opening date six to eight months ago. The interest and all the extra publicity have been fantastic. Today everybody is really paying attention to us."

Neither Lord Archer, nor his lawyers, Mishcon de Reya, would comment.

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