I was expecting Lord Janner, the former Labour peer, to become the first prominent person to face charges for child sex abuse as a result of a plethora of current police investigations across the United Kingdom. It was quite clear from the attitude of both the Met Police and Leicestershire Police ( and it now appears Northamptonshire as well) that they had uncovered serious allegations against him dating back decades.
So in one sense it was not a surprise that the Crown Prosecution Service statement says that the Labour peer faced numerous charges.
They were following Operation Enamel ( the Leicestershire Police investigation) enough for the CPS to say “the evidential test was passed on the basis that the evidence is sufficient to have warranted charging and prosecuting Lord Janner in relation to the particular charges listed below; these relate to nine individuals:
- 14 indecent assaults on a male under 16 between 1969 and 1988
- 2 indecent assaults between 1984 and 1988
- 4 counts of buggery of a male under 16 between 1972 and 1987
- 2 counts of buggery between 1977 and 1988.
One of the victims has issued a statement through Leicestershire police. So the decision after four separate medical reports not to prosecute Lord Janner because he has Alzheimer’s Disease and is unfit to plead is devastating for all the survivors of the alleged abuse who will not be able to testify. It also must thoroughly frustrating for Leicestershire Police , who are understandably furious about the decision, after conducting such a thorough and forensic inquiry. It appears in the CPS’s view to have been done too late. There is a full report by my colleagues on the Exaro site.
At the moment we are left with an impasse over a high-profile and contentious figure. His family can forever say he is innocent of all charges because it will not be tested in a trial. His victims and survivors can claim he is guilty and yet another member of the Establishment to escape justice for hideous crimes.
To make it worse both views are irreconcilable even among people who worked with him. Before this decision I had talked to two people who had closely worked with Lord Janner. One,a journalist, was utterly convinced that he was innocent and could not believe he would do such a thing. Another,a politician, was highly suspicious about his behaviour with young men ( though he had never been propositioned himself).
If the CPS decision cannot be challenged it seems to me the only way for survivors to receive any form of justice is for Lady Goddard to step in and make this a central plank of her judicial inquiry. It has all the messy ingredients of the current historical child sexual abuse scandal – missed opportunities, failed previous police investigations, a failure by the Crown Prosecution Service itself, and the convenient death or terminal illness of alleged perpetrators just when justice beckons. A different scandal,involving Grafton Close children’s home in Richmond the death of the council’s former children’s home deputy manager,John Stingemore , just before his trial for child sexual abuse at Southwark Crown Court earlier this year, echoes Janner.. Again there were police failures, allegations were not followed up, and charges not made until years after the event.
Only a thorough examination of the entire documentation of the Janner saga and – as it is a judicial inquiry – testimony from people who people involved, including the survivors, social workers, the police, and for that matter Keith Vaz, the chair of the Commons home affairs select committee in the last session of Parliament- and a staunch defender of Janner in the past.
If Goddard fails to do this – it could also be taken up by the Independent People’s Tribunal- which is also now being set up and will provide an alternative voice to the official inquiry.
Justice has to be done and lessons learned. The biggest one involves any current allegations of child sex abuse – justice must not wait until the perpetrators are dead or terminally ill.