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The case of Lord Janner is an insult to the law

By Simon Kelner

Published 25/04/2015

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

There are so many layers of tawdriness, incompetence and betrayal in the case of Lord Janner, and so much that seems to point to an Establishment cover-up, that, at a time when we've become almost inured to cases involving allegations of historic child abuse, this one is capable of tipping us over the edge.

Lord Janner has not been found guilty of sexual crimes, and his family says he is "totally innocent of any wrongdoing".

But the Crown Prosecution Service, a body independent of the Government, believes there is enough evidence for him to stand trial on 22 serious offences against nine victims between 1969 and 1998. The final alleged assault came a year after Tony Blair elevated this former Labour MP to the House of Lords.

The Director of Public Prosecutions for England and Wales, Alison Saunders, has declared that Janner, an 86-year-old dementia sufferer, is not fit to stand trial, so there will be no chance to test his family's assertion (how can they be so certain, anyway?), or for Lord Janner's name to be cleared, or, most importantly, for justice to be done for his alleged victims and for the public.

What are we to make of all this? On face value, it's a scandal. On further examination, it's an even bigger scandal. This is not a case where allegations have suddenly surfaced, with accusers coming forward after decades.

During the trial of a sex criminal called Frank Beck in 1991, Greville Janner, as he was then, was named by the defendant as being a child abuser. Beck, the director of a children's home, was sentenced to five life terms, and Janner was interviewed by the police. He reportedly replied "no comment" to all the questions put to him, and that was that.

Janner's colleagues in the House of Commons came to his support, applauding when he said there wasn't "a shred of evidence". A forensic examination of the allegations and evidence? Or blind support for one of their own? This is a consistent thread throughout this saga.

Lord Janner was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2009 but continued to serve in the Lords until just over a year ago. Which brings us to Saunders' decision that, in spite of the case having passed the evidential requirements, the defendant was incapable of engaging with the court process. But what about the greater public interest? And why should the CPS alone make this decision, rather than refer it to the judiciary?

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