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Ex-DPP slams Janner probe 'failing'

Published 18/04/2015

Lord Janner was investigated by three different police inquiries between 1991 and 2007
Lord Janner was investigated by three different police inquiries between 1991 and 2007

The former director of public prosecutions, Lord Macdonald, has said it was a "serious failing" by prosecutors that he was not informed of an investigation into historic child sexual abuse by ex-Labour MP Lord Janner.

Lord Macdonald told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he would have given the historic allegations his "close attention" had Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) lawyers chosen to refer the case to him in 2007.

Former Leicester West MP Lord Janner, now 86 and mentally ill, was investigated by three different police inquiries between 1991 and 2007.

He is accused of using his position as MP for Leicester to abuse vulnerable young boys at a local children's home in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

Earlier this week, current DPP Alison Saunders, who is head of the CPS, said there was now enough evidence to bring charges against the former Labour peer, but that his dementia meant he was too sick to stand trial.

Police are threatening legal action to overturn the decision after the CPS admitted it was "wrong" not to prosecute Lord Janner in the past.

Lord Macdonald, DPP from 2003 until 2008, told Today the case involved a "prominent person" and so it should have been handled from London rather than the CPS locally. He said: "It was apparently a serious police investigation, and it should have been absolutely clear to the lawyers in Leicestershire that this case should have been sent to London.

"I would have undoubtedly taken a look at it personally, and would have undoubtedly myself have considered the question as to whether or not Lord Janner should be charged.

"The greater regret ... is that this matter was not dealt with before when Lord Janner was fit to stand trial. Not just for the sake of the alleged victims, but also for his sake so he could have the opportunity to clear his name.

"Now we're stuck in a limbo with the allegations having been made and no prospect of them ever being resolved as they might have been in 2007 had the correct procedures been followed.

"In light of the fact ... there were so many opportunities in the past to resolve this - which were not taken by the CPS - it might have been wiser for the CPS now to say we're going to have this matter resolved in the full public glare of a courtroom rather than simply by the DPP."

Yesterday, David Cameron sympathised with those who feel "frustrated" that Lord Janner will not face charges over alleged child abuse.

Speaking at an election campaign event in Wales, Mr Cameron said: "I have enormous sympathy for anyone who has been the victim of crime or abuse, of sexual abuse, whoever has carried them out, wherever they've happened in our country.

"And it's quite clear to me that we need to do more as a country to tackle this scourge and tackle it more rapidly.

"But it is a very important principle in our country that decisions about prosecutions, about investigations, are taken by the independent authorities in the proper way and we have to be very careful not to step over the line however frustrating sometimes it may feel that people aren't getting the justice that they deserve."

Nazir Afzal, who led the CPS in north-west England from 2011 until earlier this year, said the decision not to prosecute Lord Janner before his diagnosis was "very depressing".

He said: "There were many, many mistakes made in the past based on judgements that were really poor.

"It's absolutely important that we learn from these incidents and any incidents that happened in the past.

"People have got better but this has to be every agency getting better at what they do and I am sad to say that today I still think there are major, major gaps in the way we deal with child protection."

Lord Janner's family have repeatedly denied he is connected to any wrongdoing.

Speaking to BBC Radio Cornwall, Home Secretary Theresa May said: "I was very concerned when I heard about this decision. It is not my decision, it is entirely a decision for the director of public prosecutions.

"I have been very clear in everything I have said so far about the child sexual abuse issue and about the cases that I expect to see justice done."

Alison Millar, head of the abuse team at law firm Leigh Day, who represented an alleged victim of Lord Janner, said: "The main option now for those who allege they were abused by Lord Janner, to ensure their claims are investigated and for their voice to be heard, is through a civil legal claim. We are currently investigating the feasibility of such a legal challenge."

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