Labour peer Lord Janner will not face charges of sexual abuse due to his poor mental health at the insistence of Alison Saunders, the director of public prosecutions, who has personally overruled senior lawyers investigating the historic allegations. This follows four previous opportunities to prosecute Lord Janner that have been missed over the last 24 years, while Labour friends have praised him as a “survivor” in the Commons.
Until last month, Leicestershire police, who investigated the case, believed that the Crown Prosecution Service would press charges against Lord Janner, having gained enough evidence to prosecute him for 16 offences against nine victims, spanning a period of three decades from the 1960s onwards, the Times has reported (the Telegraph is reporting 22 offences). A total of 25 alleged victims were interviewed during the course of their investigation.
Consequently, the lead council appointed to the case recommended that the case go ahead. But Mrs Saunders has ruled that it is not in the public interest to pursue a conviction, as Lord Janner’s dementia means that he will not be able to hire representation or follow proceedings.
Sir Clive Loader, the police and crime commissioner for Leicestershire, said: “The decision is not just wrong — it is wholly perverse and contrary to any notion of natural justice.” Sir Clive has now written to the home secretary, arguing that the Department of Public Prosecutions had “fatally undermined” justice.
Roger Bannister, an assistant chief constable at Leicestershire police, said he thought the ruling was “the wrong one”, and would deter victims of sex abuse from coming forward.
The police are understood to be taking legal advice, as are the alleged victims, who together are seeking a review. One man who was prepared to give evidence against Lord Janner said “They say that it’s not in the public interest, but isn’t it in the public interest to know what victims have gone through? If he was an everyday person with a normal life and job, justice would have been served, but as it stands we victims are just being pushed to the ground again and walked over.”
This isn’t the first time that Lord Janner has found himself shielded from prosecution by friends in high places. The first of four missed opportunities to convict Lord Janner came in 1991, when the police first investigated him for these crimes.
Suspicions were raised when, during the trial of another man who was convicted of abusing more than 100 children, a former occupant of a children’s home accused Lord Janner of abusing him for two years. The victim was aged between 13 and 15 at the time of the alleged abuse.
But following an investigation, the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to prosecute Janner, who then claimed to be the victim of a smear campaign. Labour MP Keith Vaz, who went on to chair the home affairs committee for the past eight years, even sought to have the laws of contempt of court changed to grant anonymity to those accused of abuse during court proceedings.
A total of 16 MPs spoke in Lord Janner’s defence during a debate in the Commons on the matter, including Vaz himself who praised his friend as a “great survivor”. Lord Janner was “the victim of a cowardly and wicked attack by people who simply did not care what damage they did to him,” Vaz, who hopes to retain his seat in Leicester East next month, told the Commons.