Archer may be transferred to Isle of Wight jail

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The Independent Online

Jeffrey Archer, the disgraced Tory peer, is expected to be transferred to a low-security prison on the Isle of Wight next week.

The 61-year-old, who is currently an inmate at the maximum-security jail HMP Belmarsh, in south London, had expected to be transferred to an open prison close to his home in Cambridge.

But, after a review of his security status, he is now likely to spend part of his four-year sentence for perjury and perverting the course of justice in HMP Camp Hill, a Category-C prison on the outskirts of the town of Newport.

To visit her husband, Mary Archer will need to do a 300-mile round trip to the south coast from their home in Grantchester, near Cambridge.

The former borstal was opened by Winston Churchill in 1912, and is home to 460 inmates, most of whom are being prepared for release back into the community, although it also acts as a holding jail for the Isle of Wight courts.

Archer is likely to be given an individual cell, where he is expected to take his three meals a day. Meals in the wings are brought over from a central catering centre near by. Camp Hill's kitchens were closed three years ago.

Each morning and afternoon inmates can make use of the workshops or educational centre at the jail. Classes include drama, business administration, current affairs, sociology and hairdressing. The prison also has a sports hall, gymnasium and an Astroturf football pitch. In April, Camp Hill won praise in a two-week audit by the Prison Service.

The prison is close to the island's two other jails, HMP Parkhurst and HMP Albany, both Category-B jails – a higher classification than required for Archer, who was made a Category-C inmate this week.

When he was jailed at the Old Bailey last month, Archer was classified a Category-D inmate, the lowest security risk, which allowed him to leave prison to attend his mother's funeral two days after he received his sentence.

The classification also meant that he was considered suitable to be moved from Belmarsh to an open prison, such as Ford in West Sussex, when a place became available. But he was reclassified as a higher-risk Category-C inmate when Scotland Yard confirmed that it was examining claims that millions of pounds had gone missing from Archer's fundraising campaign for Iraqi Kurds in 1991.

A complaint was lodged by the Liberal Democrat MEP Baroness Nicholson, concerning the whereabouts of £57m that Archer had claimed was collected in aid of the "Simple Truth" campaign.

The change in Archer's status meant he could not be moved quickly to an open jail, as happened in the case of the Jonathan Aitken, the disgraced former Tory cabinet minister.

If the Metropolitan Police inquiry clears Archer, a former Tory party deputy chairman, he is likely to be transferred to an open prison, which will have a more relaxed regime. He will have to serve least two of the four years of his sentence before he can be released on parole, and will be released automatically after 32 months.

* Archer faced further embarrassment yesterday when an entry in Who's Who claiming he was a member of the Lough Working Men's Club turned out to be untrue.

Although bar staff remember him visiting the club for a drink 30 years ago when he was the local MP, they said he was "definitely not a member now".

Lord Archer was MP for Louth, an elegant Lincolnshire town, between 1969 and 1974. He stood down when he lost about £500,000 he had invested in a business that crashed.

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