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Janner no-trial decision 'perverse'

Published 16/04/2015

Lord Janner served as an MP for 27 years and was made a life peer in 1997
Lord Janner served as an MP for 27 years and was made a life peer in 1997

A former Labour peer should have stood trial 25 years ago for sex attacks on children - but will now not face court because he has dementia, Britain's top prosecutor said.

Lord Greville Janner, now 86, allegedly used his power as an MP for Leicester to abuse vulnerable young boys at a local children's home in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

He was investigated by three different police inquiries between 1991 and 2007, and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) admitted it was "wrong" not to prosecute the peer back then.

Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders said there is enough evidence to charge Lord Janner with 22 sex offences, but he is now too sick to stand trial.

The move was branded "perverse" by police, who are threatening legal action to overturn it.

And Sir Clive Loader, the Tory Police and Crime Commissioner for Leicestershire, launched a scathing attack on the decision.

Sir Clive, who did not name Lord Janner, said: "This decision is not just wrong - it is wholly perverse and is contrary to any notion of natural justice. I cannot believe that any right-minded person will understand or support it.

"For decades this man is alleged to have carried out premeditated, systematic sex crimes against young boys and one girl who were in the care of the local authority."

Campaigners said the move not to prosecute was "bizarre" and accused the establishment of "closing ranks" and failing abuse victims.

It is claimed that Lord Janner, while "in a position of authority and trust as the local MP for Leicester West" befriended the manager of a children's care home to allow him access to children who he went on to abuse.

Lord Janner strongly denies the allegations against him.

He was first interviewed in 1991 when his name was mentioned in the trial of Frank Beck, one of Britain's most notorious paedophiles who was jailed for abusing boys in his care at Leicestershire children's homes.

The politician was accused of grooming and abusing a boy aged between 13 and 15, but the CPS did not pursue the case.

He was investigated again in 2002 and 2006 when fresh allegations surfaced, but each time the CPS decided no further action would be taken.

Ms Saunders admitted that the case was not "thoroughly investigated" at the time and only properly looked at under Operation Enamel, which was launched in 2013.

She said: "It is a matter of deep regret that the decisions in relation to the previous investigations were as they were.

"Had the previous decisions been to prosecute, as they should have been, Lord Janner would have had the opportunity to challenge the evidence and defend himself through the trial process, with a jury ultimately deciding on his guilt or innocence some years ago.

"Victims of the alleged offences have been denied the opportunity of criminal proceedings in relation to the offences of which they have complained.

"It is of obvious and particular concern that such proceedings did not take place as a result of what the CPS now consider to be wrong decisions."

The decision has sparked anger from campaigners, who said it will deter victims from coming forward.

Peter Saunders, founder of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood, said: "I am not easily shocked, but I'm shocked at the catalogue of mistakes and errors and failings to launch a prosecution.

"I think many victims and survivors will be feeling terribly, terribly let down at the moment."

An NSPCC spokesman said: "Something went badly wrong in the way these allegations against Lord Janner were handled and victims will be understandably angry and upset that, because of mistakes made by the CPS, a jury will not have the final say. We need to be reassured this will never happen again."

Lord Janner, who lives in Hampstead, north London, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2009 and requires round-the-clock care.

The CPS said that "but for medical considerations, it would undoubtedly have been in the public interest to prosecute".

He would have been charged with 22 sex offences against nine alleged victims between 1969 and 1988.

Retired High Court judge Sir Richard Henriques has been asked to conduct an independent review into the handling of the case.

In statement issued through lawyers, Lord Janner's family said: "Lord Janner is a man of great integrity and high repute with a long and unblemished record of public service.

"He is entirely innocent of any wrongdoing.

"As the Crown Prosecution Service indicated today, this decision does not mean or imply that any of the allegations that have been made are established or that Lord Janner is guilty of any offence."

The peer has been suspended from the Labour Party.

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