Members of the Establishment who committed heinous crimes against children should be brought to book. This is a cause that I have advocated on my radio programme before it became headline press. However, the 78 new and re-elected cross party MP’s are misplaced in renewing pressure on Alison Saunders the DPP1 to reverse the decision to charge Greville Janner. Their anger deflects from those who are mentally sound and blameworthy.
As the chairman of Britain’s Holocaust Educational Trust, Greville Janner said that nobody should be beyond the reach of the law. He advocated prosecuting those accused of war crimes even when suffering from serious illness. I do not agree.
The DPP has made the decision not to charge Greville Janner the 86-year-old veteran Labour peer with 22 sex offences against children. The catalogue of offences are most vile. Yet, contrary to the letter from a cross-party group of politicians’ to the Times I believe this trial would be “not in the public interest.” This is because it is not in the interest of justice.
For it to be just, it must be fair. This means that the defendant must be capable of understanding what is happening so they can instruct their lawyers, make a plea and represent themselves. Greville Janner, according to four independent doctors, does not even know his own name. He is suffering with an aggressive form of Alzheimer’s disease and apparently requires 24-hour care. This renders him incapable of considering evidence, testifying or entering a plea. His children have had his power of attorney since the diagnosis.
Dementia alone is not sufficient grounds to drop the changes. The Daily Mail, provides cases where defendants suffering dementia have been convicted of sex crimes. What differentiates the Janner case is his total lack of ability to make rational choices because his dementia is so severe. It is this lack of rationality that makes trial in absentia2unsuitable. Trial in absentia were created to accommodate physically incapacitated defendants not those mentally incapacitated.
The 25 victims deserve to be heard. Their outrage and their petition to review the decision is understandable. Regrettably it is far too late for Greville Janner. He is past rehabilitation. The burden of his care would transfer to the state. He is deprived of his faculties and is a mere husk of his former self.
On the other hand it is not too late for authority figures in public institutions to be held accountable. In 1989 an investigation into Janner was blocked. In 1991 Frank Beck on trial for child abuse himself, named Janner as a child abuser. There have been four occasions between 1997 – 2007 when Janner could have been held to account but was not. Those who protected him should be held to account for gross dereliction of duty. The same institutions that have allowed a man with dementia to vote in the House of Lords 203 times. The police3and MP’s venting against the DPP detracts from this. Their energy would be far better engaged working to identify those responsible for the shielding Janner in the first place. This way justice is done and is seen to be done.