Archer prison diarist starts magazine course

Williams: started NCTJ course at Brighton and Hove

he former prisoner whose diaries about serving time with Jeffrey Archer triggered a dispute between The Guardian and the Press Complaints Commission is now training as a journalist.

John Williams, who was in HMP Hollesley Bay with the disgraced peer, was commissioned by The Guardian to write a diary which was published in the newspaper last April.

The PCC ruled the newspaper had breached the Editors’ Code of Practice by paying a convicted criminal and described Williams’s piece as an “opportunistic article based on the notoriety of Jeffrey Archer”.

Six months after being released on parole, having served four years of a sentence for robbery, Williams has started an NCTJ course in magazine journalism at City College, Brighton and Hove.

During the spells between prison terms, Williams earned his living as a writer and he explained that he was studying journalism to “discuss and engage with the process of writing” and assess whether writing is a “life-style choice” for him.

However, Williams said he did not want to be a “production line” writer and expressed strong opinions about what the role of a journalist should be.

“It’s about personal integrity – people may be stories but to forget they are human beings is not the kind of journalism I would be attracted to.”

Williams has written his own autobiography, Silver Threads, and the prison journal Wings and Landings, which was serialised by BBC Radio 4.

Williams was born in North Wales and brought up in children’s homes. In 1983 he was sentenced to a 12-year jail sentence for an armed robbery in London and during the prison term he started to keep a daily journal.

Williams said of his Guardian article: “I wanted to put him [Archer] in his place because he’d seen a ready-made market as soon as he went into prison to produce his HMP Belmarsh diaries, without any thought for confidentiality, identifying the prisoners he was talking about. Moving next door to me the opportunity for him to experience that same intrusiveness was a heaven sent opportunity.”

By Nicola Sullivan

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