Novelist-Politician Jeffrey Archer Wins Libel Trial Against the Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Jeffrey Archer was a best-selling British novelist and rising Conservative Party politician in 1986 when London’s Daily Star revealed that he had paid for sex, an accusation that led Archer to sue the newspaper successfully for libel. After two former associates came forward in 1999 to say that Archer lied during his testimony and manufactured evidence in the libel case, he was arrested, convicted of perjury, and imprisoned.

Summary of Event

Jeffrey Archer became the United Kingdom’s fourth youngest member of Parliament in 1969 when he won a seat as a Conservative representing Louth, Lincolnshire. However, he had to step down in 1974 after he was victimized in a stock swindle and was close to bankruptcy. He then turned to writing to make a living. He based his first novel, Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less (1976), on his experience with the swindler, and the book became a best seller. After writing more best sellers, including the Kane and Abel Kane and Abel (Archer) trilogy (1979, 1982, 1987), Archer reentered politics in 1985 when he was appointed deputy chairman of the Conservative Party by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Margaret Thatcher, who chose to ignore warnings about his character. [kw]Archer Wins Libel Trial Against the Daily Star, Novelist-Politician Jeffrey (July 25, 1987) [kw]Libel Trial Against the Daily Star, Novelist-Politician Jeffrey Archer Wins (July 25, 1987) Archer, Jeffrey Daily Star Libel cases;and Jeffrey Archer[Archer] Coghlan, Monica Stacpoole, Michael Francis, Ted Archer, Jeffrey Daily Star Libel cases;and Jeffrey Archer[Archer] Coghlan, Monica Stacpoole, Michael Francis, Ted [g]Europe;July 25, 1987: Novelist-Politician Jeffrey Archer Wins Libel Trial Against the Daily Star[02290] [g]England;July 25, 1987: Novelist-Politician Jeffrey Archer Wins Libel Trial Against the Daily Star[02290] [c]Law and the courts;July 25, 1987: Novelist-Politician Jeffrey Archer Wins Libel Trial Against the Daily Star[02290] [c]Publishing and journalism;July 25, 1987: Novelist-Politician Jeffrey Archer Wins Libel Trial Against the Daily Star[02290] [c]Government;July 25, 1987: Novelist-Politician Jeffrey Archer Wins Libel Trial Against the Daily Star[02290] [c]Politics;July 25, 1987: Novelist-Politician Jeffrey Archer Wins Libel Trial Against the Daily Star[02290] [c]Sex;July 25, 1987: Novelist-Politician Jeffrey Archer Wins Libel Trial Against the Daily Star[02290] Peppiatt, Angela Baker, Terence Raphael, Adam

Unfortunately for the Conservatives, those warnings turned out to be accurate. Archer resigned his position in October, 1986, when the newspaper News of the World, The The News of the World ran a story alleging that Archer had paid Monica Coghlan, a prostitute, £2,000 to leave England. She was allegedly paid through a go-between, Michael Stacpoole, a friend and business associate of Archer. However, the newspaper stopped short of saying that Archer actually had sex with Coghlan. It was another newspaper, the Daily Star, that reported Archer paid £70 for sex with Coghlan at the Albion Hotel in the Mayfair district of London. Archer sued the Daily Star for libel.

The civil trial began in early July, 1987. Archer testified that he had never met Coghlan, but journalist Adam Raphael testified under subpoena that Archer told him that he had met Coghlan about six months before the events in dispute. Archer explained the payment as the act of a kindhearted person rather than that of a guilty party trying to buy silence, and his wife, Mary Archer, a scientist, testified on his behalf. The reporters for the Daily Star and The News of the World News of the World, The testified that they had recorded telephone conversations between Archer and Coghlan without Archer’s knowledge, had paid Coghlan £6,000, and had arranged to have Coghlan wear a microphone for a meeting she had with Stacpoole at Victoria Station. Their conversation was recorded.

Some confusion arose, however, regarding the exact date of the alleged sexual encounter. In any case, Archer had alibis from friends Ted Francis and Terence Baker for both nights in question, and Baker ultimately testified on Archer’s behalf. Archer also provided an appointment book for the period that challenged the chronology of the Daily Star article. Observers at the trial felt that the judge was biased in Archer’s favor, especially when he strongly argued for the support of Mary Archer in his instructions to the jury. (Judges in Britain are given more leeway in expressing their opinions before the jury than are judges in the United States.) On July 25, Archer won his lawsuit against the Daily Star, which had to pay him £500,000 in damages.

Archer then resumed his career as an author, writing plays, short stories, and novels. In 1992, he became Baron Archer of Weston-super-Mare at the recommendation of Prime Minister John Major Major, John for his fund-raising efforts for displaced Iraq;Kurds Iraqi Kurds. In 1999, he was selected by the Conservative Party as its candidate for the London mayoral election of 2000.

After Archer’s nomination, Francis, by then a former friend who claimed Archer owed him money, along with Archer’s former personal assistant, Angela Peppiatt, whom Archer had fired in a dispute over expense reports, asserted that he had made up an alibi for the 1987 trial. They claimed it was their civic duty to report the fabricated alibi. It was later revealed, however, that Francis had accepted £19,000 from News of the World, The The News of the World. Francis claimed that Archer had asked him to lie under oath by testifying that they had dinner together on the night mentioned in the original Daily Star article. The newspaper later changed the date of the encounter in its story, so Francis never actually testified.

Peppiatt claimed that Archer had ordered her to forge an appointment book to back up his alibi, but that she had secretly kept the original book, photocopies of the false entries, and Archer’s written instructions. Journalists also found Stacpoole, the intermediary who had given the money to Coghlan, in Thailand, where he was managing a brothel. Stacpoole revealed that Archer had given him £40,000 to live in Paris until after the 1987 trial was finished. Reportedly, Stacpoole had knowledge about Archer’s business and marital affairs that would have damaged Archer’s case. Finally, two friends of Archer’s agent Baker, who had died in 1991, revealed that he had told them that he lied under oath to provide Archer with an alibi in return for the television and film rights to Archer’s books.

The News of the World printed its investigative story in November, 1999, and Archer promptly withdrew from the election. In February, 2000, he was banned from the Conservative Party for five years; he was arrested in April and, in September, was charged with Perjury;Jeffrey Archer[Archer] perjury and perverting the course of justice during the 1987 trial. The new trial took place from May through July, 2001. Archer was found guilty of both charges and was sentenced to four years in prison, of which he served two.

Archer was initially sent to Belmarsh Prison, a maximum-security facility, then moved to Wayland Prison (medium security) in August and finally to North Sea Camp (minimum security) in October. Media reports allege that he had been abusing his privileges, so in September, 2002, he was transferred to Lincoln Prison, a medium-security facility, for one month. In July, 2003, he was released on parole.

Impact

Archer’s receipt of £500,000 in damages from the Daily Star in 1987 marked the highest award ever given in a libel case in the United Kingdom. Lloyd Turner, the newspaper’s editor, was fired six weeks after the trial. In October, 2002, Archer repaid the monies he had received in 1987, plus £1 million for the newspaper’s legal expenses. However, vindication came too late for Turner, who died in 1996.

Shortly after his release, Archer announced that he would never again enter politics, although he eventually joined a local branch of the Conservative Party. Instead, he concentrated on his writing career. He wrote the nonfiction trilogy A Prison Diary Diaries;Jeffrey Archer[Archer] (2002, 2003, 2004) while in prison. After prison, he wrote the novels False Impression (2006) and The Gospel According to Judas (2007; cowritten with Francis J. Moloney) and the short-story collection Cat O’Nine Tales (2006). Nine of the stories in Cat O’Nine Tales were based on stories told to Archer by other prisoners during his incarceration. Archer, Jeffrey Daily Star Libel cases;and Jeffrey Archer[Archer] Coghlan, Monica Stacpoole, Michael Francis, Ted

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Archer, Jeffrey. A Prison Diary. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2003. The first volume of three, written as a form of therapy while in prison. This volume covers Belmarsh Prison. Volume 2, Purgatory (2005), describes his incarceration at Wayland Prison and volume 3, Heaven (2005), describes his incarceration at North Sea Camp.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Crick, Michael. Jeffrey Archer: Stranger than Fiction. 4th ed. London: Hamish Hamilton, 2000. An updated biography of Archer that includes discussion of the charges of perjury that surfaced in 1999. Both editions devote several chapters to the 1987 trial.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Mantle, Jonathan. In for a Penny: Unauthorized Biography of Jeffrey Archer. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1988. This was the first book-length biography of Archer and was favorably reviewed at the time. Unfortunately, the author did not have the benefit of the information revealed in 1999 and 2001, the year of Archer’s new trial.

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