Lord Janner (pictured on the left) may face a warrant for his arrest if he fails to attend court to face 22 child abuse charges this Friday. The former Labour MP has been ordered to show up, but his defence team are using human rights law to say the 87-year-old peer, who has advanced dementia and denies the charges, is too ill to appear.
The BBC reports Lord Janner’s lawyers have now asked a High Court judge to decide if it was in fact unlawful to order him to appear in court in person to face his historic child sex abuse charges. A preliminary decision will be made on Thursday, ahead of any court-ordered appearance, pending a full judicial review of the decision.
At last Friday’s original hearing where Chief Magistrate Howard Riddle ordered his appearance, it was acknowledged Lord Janner would be unable to understand proceedings because of his medical condition. Nevertheless, despite conceding Lord Janner did not have to play a part in a hearing, he was deemed to be legally obliged to appear at court for a hearing.
Lord Janner’s lawyers say that in the circumstances a court appearance would violate his rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights by causing him to suffer “considerable distress and harm”. This is despite the fact that, as The Telegraph reports, an eight-point plan intended to ensure his appearance is not too distressing has been put in place by prosecutors.
For example, Lord Janner will enter via a side entrance and have step-free access to the courtroom. He will be allowed to stand in the well of the court, rather than the dock, accompanied by his choice of a relative, a nurse and a member of his legal team. The entire process is expected to last only a few minutes at most.
Judge Riddle acknowledges Friday’s proceedings are dependant on the outcome of the High Court challenge, but said: “If the requirement remains for Lord Janner to attend and he does not, I will be expecting the Crown to make their suggestions as to how best to proceed.
“If that is by application of a warrant, then the judge sitting on that occasion will want to know what special arrangements have been made by the Crown to enforce the warrant.”
He added: “I am satisfied that the journey to this court is reasonable and that arrangements can be made for the defendant to come into this courtroom with as little distress as can be expected in view of his condition.”
If Lord Janner’s dementia is ruled to be too advanced and he is not deemed fit to plead, a so-called ‘trial of fact’ could be held. That would mean jurors being asked to rule if Lord Janner carried out the acts he is accused of, but with no finding of guilt and no conviction.