With the news that Lord Janner’s trial of the facts (TOFT), will not continue after his death, some survivors of his alleged child sex abuse have said that the decision to drop the proceedings are ‘an establishment cover-up’. As a champion for the prevention of child sex abuse, I don’t agree that dropping the proceedings is ‘an establishment cover-up’, that happened earlier. The TOFT was bending to public outrage. Whatever the findings Janner would have walked away. However, with the Janner show trial behind us, in the words of Janner himself (in the case of Szymon Serafinowicz) ‘I am sorry that he was not tried while he was fit enough to stand’. Public figures accused of child sex abuse have managed to evade prosecution under our system of justice for decades. ‘There were absolutely no reasons why he should have escaped charges for ever.’ That Janner did, means that people abused their positions to aid him in evading the charges1. Along with those who closed ranks, they need to be brought to book. Survivors will find justice here and not by chasing the ghost of Janner.
Our collective outrage for the crime of paedophilia is perhaps blinding our reasoning and sense of justice. It is not just or fair to prosecute a person who is suffering from severe dementia. Amongst other incapacities, they are incapable of defending themselves. To do so is a travesty of justice (see blog post). When David Perry QC reviewed the decision not to prosecute Janner, he agreed that he was not fit to stand trial. It was, therefore, incongruous that he ruled that a prosecution should happen. The prosecution then became a TOTF, which would neither punish nor convict. Due to Janner’s dementia, he would have been given an absolute discharge.
However, in 1991,2 2002 and 2007 the ‘evidential test was passed’ for bringing a prosecution against Lord Janner.3 This test meant there was a realistic prospect of conviction, according to Alison Saunders, for the 22 charges of sex offences, alleged to have taken place from 1969 to 1988, involving children from care homes. Somebody in authority stopped the prosecution process three times and closed four police investigations.
There was also a closing of ranks in the House of Commons, irrespective of party colours. Keith Vaz (Labour), David Ashby (Tory) and Lord Carlile (then Lib Dem MP) among others, gave Janner a glowing character reference and rejected the allegations of child sex abuse. Most dangerously, there was an attempt to change the Contempt of Court Act. The amendment would have protected people from being named in criminal proceedings as Janner had been in the Frank Beck Case. Currently, there are renewed calls for the law to allow anonymity of the accused. The law is sufficient as it stands.
Our collective outrage must focus on those responsible for allowing Janner to escape a trial. They had colluded with him (Perhaps for self-preservation) and brought their office into disrepute. ‘He who would be a leader must pay the price in self-discipline and moral restraints…the checking of passions and desires and an exemplary control of one’s bodily needs and desires’. (Haile Selassie)
Those MP’s who sided with Janner because they did not want to believe or through group preservation call into question Parliament’s fitness for purpose.
The crown prosecution service has made the right decision in not continuing with the Janner show trial. There is no point in chasing a ghost but we can pursue the living for an explanation on how and why Janner evaded prosecution. We can seek justice for the survivors by holding these people to account. We can safeguard justice as citizens by making our MPs accountable.
- In the 1970’s former detective sergeant Graeme Peene reported concerns about Janner and children. ↩
- Detective Inspector Kelvyn Ashby, who was in charge of the 1991 inquiry said he would have arrested Janner because he believed there was sufficient evidence, but that decision was taken out of his hands by senior people. ↩
- Kenneth Donald John Macdonald, Baron Macdonald of River Glaven, Kt QC was Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) of England and Wales (2003–2008). ↩