Lord Janner: cover-up means no closure

Greville Janner

Greville Janner

It is no longer a conspiracy theory when it is the truth

I have been following the story of Lord Greville Janner in the media. At first I was not going to write about this, but as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse I feel I must, even if only because it is cathartic for me to do so.

The story surrounds Labour Party peer Lord Greville Janner, who has been the subject of many child sex abuse accusations, and who has since been deemed unfit to stand trial. The first such accusations against Greville Janner began when he was Labour Party Member of Parliament (MP) for Leicester North West.

When former Leicestershire social worker Frank Beck had been charged with over 100 counts sexual abuse in childrens homes in 1991, police then confirmed they were investigating Greville Janner and he was interviewed by police. During his trial Beck claimed that on one occasion he personally intervened to prevent Janner from anally raping a little boy. One former child home resident giving evidence against Frank Beck also claimed that Greville Janner had also regularly abused him. Frank Beck was convicted of a number of rape and child sex abuse charges in November 1991.

The following month Greville Janner made a speech in the House of Commons (lower house of UK government) in which he steadfastly denied the allegations laid against him by Frank Beck and the former child home resident. His speech drew support from all sides of the House and calls for those facing false accusations in the nature of child sex abuse to be protected in law. The Crown Prosecution Service then dropped all investigations against him. In 1997 Greville Janner was enobled as a Life Peer of the House of Lords (unelected upper chamber of UK government) and took the title Baron Janner of Braunstone.

In 2002 another former child home resident went to Leicestershire police, making accusations of childhood sexual abuse against Janner. The case was never passed to the Crown Prosecution Service. In 2006 yet another former resident lodged accusations against Janner and this time the case was passed to the Crown Prosecution Service. In 2007 they decided there was insufficient evidence to proceed with a prosecution.

In 2009 Greville Janner was diagnosed with Alzeimher’s Disease, and went on formal leave of absence from the House of Lords, which continues to this day.

In January 2013 Leicestershire Police launched Operation Enamel, with help from London’s Metropolitan police, investigating historical child sex abuse operations. More than a dozen accusations of child sex abuse were made against Greville Janner by former child home residents. In December that year Janner’s home was searched by police, and in March 2014 his Westminster offices were searched. Janner subsequently signed his property over to his children, effectively making police unable to carry out further searches.

On 9 April 2015 Greville Janner sent a signed letter to the House of Lords asking to extend his formal leave of absence. The letter stated “I am writing to request leave of absence from the House of Lords for the duration of the 2015 Parliament. I understand that this will take effect on the next sitting day.” A House of Lords spokesman stated that the signature matched that of previous letters from Lord Janner, including another leave of absence letter of 3 October 2014, and he had no reason to believe that the letter had been written by anyone else.

On 16 April 2015 the Crown Prosecution Service announced that despite having sufficient evidence to bring prosecutions against Greville Janner for up to 25 child sex offences involving little boys from 1969 to 1988, they would be unable to charge him due to reasons of infirmity. Janner, now 88, had been examined by four medical experts in the preceding months, who had ruled that Alzeimher’s Disease was so severe that he was unfit to stand trial. The Crown Prosecution Service had received the evidence over a year previously and had never acted upon it.

Making absolutely no apologies, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Alison Saunders said in her statement; “Had the previous decisions been to prosecute, as they should have been, Lord Janner would have had the opportunity to challenge the evidence and defend himself through the trial process, with a jury ultimately deciding on his guilt or innocence some years ago.”

The decision brought anger not only from Greville Janner’s alleged victims and members of the public, but also from police officers involved in Operation Enamel. Detectives from Leicestershire Police maintained that their investigations into Janner would continue and even said they were considering an unprecedented challenge to the Crown Prosecution Service. Deputy Detective Chief Constable Roger Bannister, who had headed up the investigation called the decision “perverse” and stated “There is credible evidence that this man carried out some of the most serious sexual crimes imaginable over three decades against children who were highly vulnerable and the majority of whom were in care. We are exploring what possible legal avenues there may be to challenge this decision and victims themselves have a right to review under a CPS procedure.”

After decades of knowing of the suspicions about him, the Labour Party finally acted and suspended Greville Janner from party membership on the same day.

On 19 April 2015 The Times revealed that a barrister, Neil Moore, whom DPP Alison Saunders had consulted on the Janner case, had until late 2014 shared legal chambers with Daniel Janner, Greville Janner’s son. The premises at 23 Essex Street, London, had been raised with Mrs Saunders. A Crown Prosecution Service spokesperson claimed that the two had not spoken in two years and that Mr Moore had acted with integrity.

On 22 May 2015 The Mirror revealed that a file containing accusations against Greville Janner has apparently been “lost” by the UK Home Office. The Wanless Report which investigates an alleged government cover-up of child sex abuse cases involving British politicians, mentions 114 such files that have been lost. One from 1986 names Greville Janner and another whose name has been obscured, states “re evidence in child abuse cases” and that the file was “Not found” and recorded as “presumed transferred to MoJ [Ministry of Justice] but not located”. Consider that this file apparently contains evidence against Janner from at least 1986, a full five years before he was publicly accused in the Frank Beck case.

On 25 May 2015, The Telegraph revealed that Alison Saunders worked in the same legal chambers as Greville Janner. The Telegraph stated “Ms Saunders began her career at 1 Garden Court chambers in 1983, when Lord Janner was already a leading QC there and she is likely to have worked with the same colleagues and moved in the same professional circles as him.” Lord Janner remained QC at 1 Garden Court chambers until 1986. A spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service countered, “It is common knowledge that Alison Saunders had her pupillage at Garden Court chambers. But the DPP and Lord Janner have never met. This is ridiculous.” The article in The Telegraph also contained an earlier statement from Alison Saunders, in which she said “I’m not part of the establishment. If it was an Establishment over-up I’ve had to pay a very heavy price for it. It’s certainly not a cover-up.”

In another guise I usually blow conspiracy theories wide open. In this case, with so many suspect incidents, and so many inconsistencies, so many things setting off alarm bells, in all honesty I cannot do so. I can only conclude that there is indeed a cover-up being perpetuated, and one which the government is not even attempting to hide.

I am not for one moment accusing Greville Janner of being guilty. Neither I nor anyone else outside of the Crown Prosecution Service has the evidence to do that (and apparently they may not have some of it either). He and his family have constantly stated that he is totally innocent of all accusations laid before him. Yet for an innocent man, some of his actions have to be called into question.

Why sign over his property to his children after his home was raided by the police? Why should he feel the need to do this if he is innocent? If innocent, would his children then make legal attempts to block any further searches, and if so, why?

Can we believe that Janner’s Alzeimher’s Disease is so very pronounced that he is unfit to stand trial? He was diagnosed with the terrible mind-wasting disease in 2009, yet he was able to legally sign ownership of his property to his children in 2013. He signed letters to the House of Lords, asking that his leave of absence be extended on regular occasions, including one in October 2014, and one just days before the DPP decision not to prosecute, on 9 April 2015. Does that sound like a person with advanced Alzeimher’s so severe that they cannot stand trial? It has been stated by some that Alzeimher’s sufferers can have amazing moments of lucidity. This is true, but the disease is progressive and those moments tend to be just that; moments. Are we to seriously believe that Greville Janner snatched those moments to sign his property to his children?

Some others have mentioned that fantasy writer Terry Pratchett was diagnosed with early-onset Alzeimher’s and remained largely lucid until his death in March 2015. This is equally true, but if Greville Janner had the same amount of alacrity as Terry Pratchett, then he should have been deemed perfectly fit to stand trial.

What are we to make of the link between barrister Neil Moore, and Janner’s son, Daniel Janner QC? On one hand we are told they shared the same legal chambers until late 2014, then on the other hand we are told that the two had not talked for two years at the time of investigation, early 2015. Just how likely is it that two men of law, in and out of the same offices, day by day, do not speak in two full years?

And of course, the file that was “lost”. I fully appreciate that in the mid-1980s the vast majority of government files were on paper. I once worked in a government office transferring data from old files onto a computer database. If any files went “lost” then heads tended to roll and there was a search for the said files. In my experience government files do not become lost unless someone wants them “lost”. The saddest fact of this is that the missing Janner files have probably been sent for confidential destruction a long time since.

What of DPP Alison Saunders starting her career at 1 Garden Court chambers while Greville Janner was a sitting QC there? I tend to agree with The Telegraph that she would have been “likely to have worked with the same colleagues and moved in the same professional circles as him.” Especially if she was indeed under her “pupilage”, who better to learn from than the sitting Queens Counsel in those very chambers? The Crown Prosecution Service spokesman who claimed that Saunders “never met” Janner cannot give any proof that is the case, and I would suggest that to expect the public to believe that two people working in the same legal chambers for three years never met is what is truly ridiculous.

By equal measure it is wholly disingenious for Alison Saunders to even try to claim “I’m not part of the establishment.”  As Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders is the head of the Crown Prosecution Service, a Crown office.  To suggest that the person in charge of bringing prosecutions on behalf of the Crown – the person who has the power to make the decision not to prosecute a suspected serial child sex offender – is not part of the establishment is not merely an absurdity, it is derisory.

So do the alleged victims have any cause of redress? Apparently not, according to legal experts. Not at least any that anyone is likely to trust.

Some point out that to be tried in absentia that Greville Janner would have to be at the trial to make a plead on the first day of proceedings at least. If unfit to do so, then the trial cannot proceed. Now, I’m not great legal mind but surely his defending counsel could make that plea upon his behalf? Is that not what they are there for? Indeed, given that his son is a Queen’s Counsel, let him take the case and enter the plea on his father’s behalf. But then there is the point that the judge may then have to deem if he finds the defendant is unfit to give evidence, or that evidence cannot be heard. The latter is the sticking point. In such cases it is really Greville Janner’s word against his accusers, and if he were deemed unfit to defend himself, then any such case would be thrown out as a mistrial.

Another point, which some legal experts have stated, that even if he stood trial and was found guilty, on reasons of age and infirmity, the judge may have no choice but to order an immediate discharge. Alison Saunders, the DPP, stated she examined this avenue and the possibility of a discharge is one reason she decided not to prosecute. As a survivor, I have news for Ms Saunders. Whether or not the accused is discharged or not is immaterial; it is justice being seen to be done and the victims finally having some measure of closure which is important. For what it is worth, whatever they have done, I would never condone sending an elderly and very infirm person to prison.  It is the conviction which matters, not the sentence.

Victims could of course bring private prosecutions. Firstly they would have to find the funds or legal aid which would enable them to do so. They would however be limited to the prosecutions they could bring, possibly only gross indecency and / or buggery, both of which would be very hard to prove without solid evidence to back them up. And of course, if the judge deemed Greville Janner unfit to stand trial, or his evidence could not be heard, then we are back to a mistrial. That is if they even got to bring the cases, as such charges require the permission of the DPP to proceed, and the DPP also reserves the right to take such cases over if she deems it necessary. Given her decision I doubt even one of the alleged victims even wants to approach the DPP.

Leicestershire Police are continuing to investigate the possibility of a Judicial Review of the decision not to prosecute. In doing so they would have to prove that the DPP did not act in accordance with both the law and the Crown Prosecution Service Code of Practice, did not act in good faith, or “uninfluenced by any ulterior motive, predilection or prejudice,” Based upon those criteria any judge hearing the case is highly unlikely to overturn the DPP’s position.

So that leaves only a public enquiry, which of course would be the remit of the government to carry out. The present government hardly has a great track record with public enquiries into child sex abuse. Another such enquiry into parliamentary sexual abuse only recently restarted after the first two people chosen to chair them were forced to resign after both were found to have close links to one of the alleged perpetrators. Sadly however, a public enquiry seems to be the only means of redress the alleged victims will ever have, and that stinks. It is not justice, it will not see a conviction being brought, it will rely largely upon the evidence of the accusers, and it does not settle the matter once and for all. In that estimation I would say that it is not, nor can it ever be closure for people who are suffering a life sentence.

And for what it is worth, for all the claims of innocence from him and his family, neither does it clear Greville Janner. If anything he will now forever be the subject of trial by media, and always be considered guilty in the eyes of the public. The decision by DPP Alison Saunders gives no closure for anyone in this matter, and I would venture that makes her position wholly untenable. If she does not resign, or the next incoming government does not dismiss her, then there truly is no justice.

In 1997 a case at the Old Bailey against an alleged Nazi War Criminal, Szymon Serafinowicz, was dropped on the grounds of the defendant being unable to testify on the grounds of senile dementia. Greville Janner, who was then Chairman of the Holocaust Educational Trust, was rightly livid and lambasted the Crown Prosecution Service, stating, “I am sorry that he was not tried while he was fit enough to stand. War criminals 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.” According to The Jewish Chronicle in 2012 Janner stated, “I don’t care what bloody age they are. These criminals should have been dealt with years ago.”

I could not agree more.