Jury out in Archer case after judge highlights alleged lies

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The Independent Online

The fate of Jeffrey Archer now lies in the hands of the men and women of the jury who left court number eight at the Old Bailey yesterday to begin their deliberations.

Before they departed, they were asked by the trial judge to consider, among other things, alleged lies told by Lord Archer of Weston-super-Mare in efforts to concoct a false alibi.

Finishing his summing up, Mr Justice Potts told them they might conclude that Lord Archer had lied in a press statement he issued when he resigned as the Tory candidate for the mayor of London, and also lied to his former friend Ted Francis.

The Tory peer had been forced to withdraw from the mayoral race after admitting that he had asked Mr Francis to "cover up" for him for the time he is alleged to have spent with prostitute Monica Coghlan, in September 1986, by the Daily Star newspaper. Lord Archer sued over the claim and won a then record £500,000 in damages.

In both the statement he issued, and in discussions with Mr Francis, he claimed he was having dinner at the time with his mistress, Andrina Colquhoun. Ms Colquhoun gave evidence that she was, in fact, on holiday at the Greek island of Skiathos on that evening.

Mr Justice Potts told the jury that just because Lord Archer may have lied did not necessarily make him guilty of the perjury and forgery charges he was facing. "If you think there is or may be an innocent explanation for any lies that you find Lord Archer told, then take no notice of them," he said.

The jury of six men and five women retired at 12.34pm yesterday, on the 30th day of what has been one of the highest-profile trials of recent times.

Lord Archer, in a black suit and black tie after the death of his mother, Lola, looked on intently as they made their way to their room. A few of them glanced back at him. Mary Archer, sitting just outside the dock in a navy suit, watched her husband watching the jury.

Lord Archer, 61, denies three charges of perverting the course of justice and two of perjury. Mr Francis, 67, denies one charge of perverting the course of justice.