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Janner court appearance 'would breach human rights', lawyers say

Published 11/08/2015

Lord Janner's family has denied all the charges against him
Lord Janner's family has denied all the charges against him

Lawyers for Lord Janner will argue that forcing him to attend court to face child abuse charges despite suffering from dementia breaches his human rights, a judge has heard.

The former Labour peer and MP has been ordered to appear at Westminster Magistrates' Court in London on Friday to face 22 charges spanning a period from the 1960s to the 1980s.

But Janner's lawyers told Senior District Judge Howard Riddle today they are taking the case to the High Court, arguing that forcing the 87-year-old to attend court in person is unlawful.

They say Janner, who has Alzheimer's Disease, will suffer "considerable distress and harm" from his court appearance which will violate his rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Janner's legal team are expected to apply to the court for an order that Friday's hearing should not go ahead pending a judicial review of the decision that he must attend.

Paul Ozin, defending Janner, told Westminster Magistrates' Court: "We have heard medical evidence that Lord Janner is a particularly vulnerable person likely to suffer an extreme reaction to an environment which is unfamiliar.

"Steps taken to get Lord Janner to court would undoubtedly cause distress for Lord Janner's family ... which would be wholly unnecessary if the High Court concludes the decision of this court is unlawful.

"If his family are required to take steps which will undoubtedly cause Lord Janner considerable distress and harm, that is a violation of his Article 8 rights."

Janner did not have to attend today's hearing. Last Friday his lawyers said he was too ill to attend the court for a first hearing in the case and argued he may suffer a "catastrophic reaction" if made to appear in future. The case is listed for a hearing at the High Court on Thursday afternoon before two judges.

Judge Riddle, the chief magistrate, said Janner was still expected to attend Friday's hearing despite his lawyers' application to the High Court.

"I'm not prepared to adjourn the hearing," Judge Riddle said. "The hearing will remain listed in this court at 10am on Friday morning. As things stand, Lord Janner is expected to attend."

The judge said two alternative settings for the hearing - Wood Green Crown Court, which is closer to Janner's home, and another room at Westminster Magistrates' Court - had not been accepted by Janner's lawyers.

He added that court staff would now make arrangements for Janner's appearance and the hearing was "likely to take less than a minute".

"I'm satisfied the journey to this court is reasonable and arrangements can be made for the defendant to come into court with as little distress as can be expected in view of his condition," he said.

Judge Riddle told the court that Janner can be accompanied at the hearing by a member of his family, a professional nurse and a member of his legal team.

The former peer will not be required to attend, however, if the High Court proceedings are still live on Friday, he added.

"If the requirement remains for Lord Janner to attend and he does not attend, then I will be expecting the Crown to make suggestions how best to proceed," the judge said.

"If that is by means of an application for a warrant - and I do not say one way or another if it should be - but if it is, the judge sitting on that occasion will want to know what special measures have been made by the Crown to enforce one."

Greville Janner was Labour MP for West Leicester for 27 years from 1970 to 1997 before becoming a peer when he left the Commons. He was suspended by the Labour Party in April.

An independent review in April overturned the original ruling of Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Alison Saunders that Janner should not be charged for alleged child sex crimes because of his Alzheimer's.

She is the first DPP to have a major prosecuting decision reviewed and overturned through the new policy.

Janner's family strongly denies claims he used his power as an MP to abuse vulnerable young boys at a local children's home.

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