Lord Janner: Police and CPS missed three chances to put him on trial

Police and CPS missed three chances to put Lord Janner on trial over child sex claims over space of 16 years before his death at 87, inquiry hears

  • Lord Greville Janner was awaiting trial for 22 counts of sexual abuse offences
  • He died in December 2015 at the age of 87 after a battle with Alzheimer’s
  • Retired High Court Judge found three occasions he could have been put on trial 
  • Senior officers with Leicestershire Police seemed wary about the investigation
  • An Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) continues 

Police and CPS missed three chances to put Lord Greville Janner on trial over child sex claims before his death aged 87, an inquiry has heard. 

Lord Janner was accused of committing acts of abuse in children’s homes, schools, a flat in London and in Parliament over the course of three decades.

Following his death in December 2015 an official report by a retired High Court Judge identified three occasions – in 1991, 2002 and 2007 – when the former Leicester West MP should have been put on trial.

The opportunities were missed because of mistakes made by the police or prosecutors, according to the 2016 report. 

Iain Groundwell, former senior legal adviser at the Crown Prosecution Service, told the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) that senior officers with Leicestershire Police seemed wary about investigating the politician.

Allegations against the former Leicestershire MP first emerged publicly in the trial of disgraced care home boss Frank Beck in 1991.

Lord Greville Janner leaves at Westminster Magistrates’ Court with his daughter on August 14, 2015 in London. He was accused of committing acts of abuse in children’s homes, schools, a flat in London and in Parliament over the course of three decades

But the Sir Richard Henriques report in 2016 found failures meant three chances were missed to charge Lord Janner – in 1991, 2002 and 2007.

Lord Janner, who had Alzheimer’s, died in 2015 while awaiting trial for 22 counts of child sexual abuse offences, relating to nine different boys, dating back half a century.

He denied the allegations.

A short summary of Friday’s IICSA hearing, which was held in private due to concerns the evidence would identify alleged victims, documented impressions from Mr Groundwell that the investigation into Lord Janner had fallen flat.

He said: ‘It was not what was said by the police, but what they didn’t say.’

He said he felt that ‘there was something holding them (police) back, that at that point they seemed to have gone off the boil’.

Lord Janner (pictured in August 2015), who had Alzheimer’s, died in 2015 while awaiting trial for 22 counts of child sexual abuse offences, relating to nine different boys, dating back half a century

No detail was provided about when in time Mr Groundwell was referring to.

Another officer explained that for a period of 11 years he was the Lead Officer for ACPO on all matters relating to child protection and sex offenders.

He said he worked at a national level within government departments and other agencies to represent the police service on all aspects of policy and strategy development in those areas.

The officer was asked about his involvement in a Leicestershire Police investigation into historical allegations concerning Lord Janner. He said he couldn’t remember the period and was reliant on documentation that had been provided to him to refresh his memory.

When asked, he refuted the suggestion made by another witness to the Inquiry that he had given an instruction not to arrest Janner. He was then asked to clarify a series of previous comments in which he had accepted that he could have given such an instruction.

Lord Greville Janner (1928-2015), British politician, barrister and writer

He stated that his previous comments were made without the benefit of reviewing all of the documentation and that he could now say ‘categorically’ that he did not make that decision.

The officer was also asked about the decision not to prosecute Lord Janner. He said there ‘wasn’t a cover-up’ and suggested there were ‘a lot of other issues’ that may have led to the fact that [Lord Janner] wasn’t prosecuted’.

These issues included the culture of the criminal justice system at the time, which he described as being ‘fairly brutal in relation to victims making allegations of child sexual abuse’.

He said such cases involved ‘very substantial cross-examination, going into lots of detail…confusing children in the witness box and also using any opportunity they could to trip the child up’.

The officer also referred to the practice of defendants using ‘background information as a way of discrediting them’ and ‘lots of applications by defence for disclosure of background files, particularly if they were in care or been involved in the social services’.

The Inquiry also heard evidence from a Senior Crown Prosecutor from within the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) about his involvement with a Leicestershire Police investigation into historical allegations concerning Lord Janner.

His evidence was also given in closed session.

The witness explained that at the time of the investigation he was an Articled Clerk within the CPS. His role was to liaise with the police and to deal with documentation coming into the CPS office in relation to the investigation into Lord Janner.

He said that any correspondence or documentation that he created would have been seen and approved by his principal.

He explained that he had no decision-making role in relation to the investigation into the allegations concerning Lord Janner.

The witness said during the investigation further lines of enquiry had been identified and he was concerned that the police had not conducted some of those enquiries. 

He acknowledged feeling frustrated as a result.

He added that he thought the decision not to take any action against Lord Janner was right at the time and he continues to think that now. 

Earlier this week, a former detective described how Lord Janner was given ‘preferential treatment’ due to his status, resulting in him not being arrested despite ‘plenty of evidence to do so’.

On Friday, barrister Peter Joyce QC, who prosecuted Beck nearly 30 years ago, said the fact that Lord Janner was an MP at the time and was well known locally would ‘not have made the slightest difference’ to any advice he provided or to his approach towards the investigation.

The inquiry will continue with a mixture of closed and open hearings next week.      

Lord Janner’s last public appearance (pictured with daughter Marion) leaving Westminster Magistrates’ Court, where effects of his ‘deteriorating and irreversible’ dementia were visible

His family insists he is innocent of all allegations.

The hearing, parts of which are taking place in private session to protect alleged victims’ identities, has been asked to consider whether Lord Janner was treated preferentially because of his social and political status.

It is expected to sit for three weeks.

Earlier this week it was revealed police investigating historical allegations against Lord Janner decided not to question him after being advised that his mental deterioration would scupper the value of his evidence.

Former Temporary Detective Superintendent Nigel ‘Matt’ Hewson said officers had planned to call the Labour peer in for interview, following a search of his home in December 2013.

But by this stage a police medical expert warned that Lord Janner, who had Alzheimer’s, would only be able to provide evidence of ‘questionable’ worth, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse heard.

Mr Hewson, who was the senior investigating officer leading Leicestershire Police’s Operation Enamel into historical allegations of abuse against Lord Janner, said he decided the threshold for arresting the ex-Leicestershire MP had not been met.

Jacqueline Carey, assistant counsel to the inquiry, said: ‘You told us that in November 2013, you made the decision not to arrest Lord Janner. 

‘There was a search of his home address on December 16 and 17 2013, and at that stage you were planning to invite Lord Janner for interview, but at that stage you discovered he was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease?’

Mr Hewson replied: ‘That’s correct, yes.’

Ms Carey said: ‘Indeed a police surgeon had advised that Lord Janner’s cognitive function was poor, and that the value of any answers – if he chose to answer questions – would be questionable?’

Mr Hewson replied: ‘That’s correct.’

He said police later conducted a search of Lord Janner’s parliamentary office in Westminster in March 2014.

Lord Janner was a Labour MP from 1970 until 1997 when he was made a peer in the House of Lords.

The investigation previously found there was no evidence of ‘Westminster paedophile ring’. Pictured: Carl Beech

His last public appearance, a 59-second hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in August 2015, was characterised by Lord Janner’s apparent inability to register what was happening.

He denied the allegations, while his family said he ‘became a target’ for a number of reasons, including ‘his particular public profile and being financially comfortable in his later years’.

Mr Hewson said a man known as ‘Nick’ came forward to the Metropolitan Police in late 2014, claiming to have been abused by Lord Janner.

However, his evidence was deemed by Mr Hewson to be of little use.

Mr Hewson told the inquiry of Nick’s evidence, presented to Leicestershire Police in the form of a transcript: ‘The allegations were so minimal, although it mentioned Lord Janner’s name it didn’t go into any detail whatsoever.

‘There was minimal detail about the alleged conduct of Lord Janner, there was no timing, no place – anything else, really.

‘Literally it was two or three lines within that document (interview transcript), there were no immediate lines of inquiry.

‘You could almost say it was struggling to establish that it was a complaint in any event.’

Nick, later revealed to be fantasist Carl Beech, was not considered useful as a potential prosecution witness against Lord Janner and his claims were dismissed by the force, Mr Hewson said.

Beech was jailed for 18 years in 2019 for what a judge called his ‘cruel and callous’ lies against politicians he claimed abused him.

The three-week inquiry into institutional responses to historic abuse allegations against Lord Janner opened on Monday.

The inquiry has already heard that children in care homes allegedly abused by Lord Janner did not immediately contact police because they felt ‘fear, shame, embarrassment and confusion’. 

Brian Altman QC, counsel to the inquiry, said complainants feared they ‘would not be believed’, while another said social care staff were ‘very dismissive’ when their concerns were raised. 

In an opening statement to the inquiry, Mr Altman said Leicestershire Police conducted two investigations into the allegations against Lord Janner, in 1999 and 2012, but that neither resulted in charges being brought.

He said: ‘How and why no charges were brought will be the focus of much of the evidence you will hear over the next three weeks.

‘His death (in December 2015) brought an end to the criminal proceedings and with it the prospect of a jury deciding whether the acts occurred.’

He added: ‘Every allegation made against him has been consistently and repeatedly denied.’

He told the panel: ‘This is not an investigation into Lord Janner’s guilt or his innocence, it is not a proxy criminal trial or a civil trial.’

Mr Altman said one of the allegations related to a claim of buggery at a flat in Dolphin Square, in Westminster, central London, in the 1960s when the complainant was homeless having run away from care.

 Lord Janner’s son, Daniel Janner QC (pictured) vehemently opposed the decision to ‘press ahead’ with the investigation into the responses of Leicestershire Police and the CPS

The alleged victim said ‘there was just no opportunity or person I could have told’, Mr Altman told the inquiry.

In the 1970s, one complainant said he was indecently assaulted at a children’s home and at the Houses of Parliament, and contacted police in April 2015. The allegations were under review at the time of Lord Janner’s death.

Mr Altman said the complainant found it ‘too hard to even admit to myself what happened’ to him.

The complainant said: ‘I find it too overwhelming for me to deal with – it’s like if I don’t have to tell anyone, I don’t have to admit it to myself.’

He did not report it to police at the time because he was concerned about not being believed and felt embarrassed, Mr Altman said.

Mr Altman told the inquiry there were ‘myriad reasons’ why complainants did not tell police of the alleged abuse at the time.

He said this included ‘fear, shame, embarrassment and confusion about what the complainant said happened, or concern by the child that they would not be believed’.

Nick Stanage, representing 13 complainants on behalf of law firm Slater and Gordon, told the inquiry of the lengthy wait for ‘justice’.

He said: ‘That prosecution came many years after allegations first surfaced – it was a prosecution that came too late.

‘For our clients, justice delayed was justice denied.’

He added: ‘Prominent people accused of child sex offences should be prosecuted with the same determination and the same vigour as any defendant.’

In a statement, Lord Janner’s son Daniel Janner QC said the inquiry would ‘deny my family the ability to cross-examine accusers’.

He said: ‘My father cannot answer back from his grave.

‘He is not there to defend himself.’ 

Danny Friedman QC, representing members of the Janner family, addressed the inquiry with a statement from Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Lord Janner’s youngest daughter.

It said: ‘We have listened carefully to all the serious accusations, we believe as totally in our father’s innocence today as we always have.’

Fantasist Carl Beech, one of Lord Janner’s accusers, was jailed for 18 years in 2019 for perverting the course of justice. Beech’s lies ruined reputations of some public servants

The family said they believed Lord Janner ‘became a target’ for a number of reasons, including ‘his particular public profile and being financially comfortable in his later years’.

Mr Friedman said it was the family’s case that Lord Janner was framed, and that there was a ‘misrepresentation of evidence of his association with a number of children’s homes and a particular person associated with them’.

Previously, the investigation into MPs, peers and civil servants working at Westminster found political institutions ‘significantly failed in their responses to allegations of child sexual abuse’.

But it said there was no evidence of a ‘Westminster paedophile ring’ – allegations made in the House of Commons in 2012 which kick-started the multimillion-pound inquiry, and later resulted in the prosecution of the fantasist Carl Beech.

The remaining three avenues of the inquiry – including the Lord Janner strand – are due to hear evidence this year, before a final report of overarching findings from all 15 sections of the investigation is laid before Parliament in 2022.

The latest strand of the long-running IICSA will focus on the police and prosecution response to allegations made against Lord Janner going back to the mid-1950s. 

Earlier this year, IICSA chairwoman Professor Alexis Jay confirmed the investigation into the responses of Leicestershire Police and the Crown Prosecution Service would continue – despite vehement opposition from members of Lord Janner’s family – although it would be held largely in closed sessions to protect the anonymity of those who accused him.

Proffessor Jay said this strand of the investigation was ‘not an investigation into Lord Janner’s guilt or innocence’.

She added: ‘It is not a proxy criminal or civil trial… it is an investigation into institutions, and into how they responded to the allegations made against Lord Janner.’

The three-week investigation follows previous strands into Westminster, the education sector and other institutions. 

TIMELINE: Sexual abuse allegations against Lord Janner

1991: During his own trial for the sexual abuse of over 100 children, paedophile Frank Beck, director of a Leicestershire children’s home, accused Lord Janner of abusing a child. A witness also claimed to have been abused by Lord Janner. The CPS decided there was insufficient evidence to prosecute.

2002: In an investigation named Operation Magnolia, Lord Janner was the subject of allegations as part of a probe into abuse children’s home. The CPS says documents containing specific allegations relating to him were not referred to them by police and claim the police chose not to pursue him.

2006: As part of a new sex abuse investigation, Operation Dauntless, an alleged victim made allegations of serious sexual offending around 1981 by three individuals including Lord Janner. The CPS decision in 2007 was again that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute.

Lord Greville Janner and Myra Sheink’s engagement announcement. The pair married in 1955. Allegations made against Lord Janner go back to the mid-1950s

2013: Leicestershire Police raid Janner’s north London home and offices as part of an inquiry linked to children’s homes in the county. He was not interviewed and maintained his innocence. Evidence was sent to the CPS.  

April 2015: CPS said it would not be pursing charges against Janner, then 86, as his dementia made him unable to stand trial.

Twenty men came forward with allegations that Janner had abused them during police investigations.

If a prosecution had gone ahead CPS said that it would have included 22 counts of indecent assault and buggery of nine victims, between 1969 and 1988.

Sir Barnett Janner, 60 year old Labour MP for North-West Leicester, with his wife and son, Greville Janner,  after receiving a knighthood, 1961

Janner was probed during an investigation into an alleged Westminster paedophile ring.

May 2015: MPs demanded rethink of Director of Public Prosecutions’ decision not to prosecute Janner.

June 2015: The decision is overturned.

August 2015: Janner attends Westminster Magistrates’ Court, appearing for only a minute to identify himself.

December 7 2015: It is ruled that Janner is unfit to stand trial.

December 19 2015: Lord Janner dies, with a trial of facts dropped.  

2019: Fantasist Carl Beech jailed for 18 years for perverting the course of justice. Beech – known as ‘Nick’ – made up preposterous tales and ruined the lives and reputations of some of Britain’s most distinguished public servants.

October 12 2020: An inquiry into allegations of sexual abuse against Lord Janner begins, focusing on the police and prosecution response to allegations made against Janner.

2022: The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse will deliver a final report of overarching findings from all 15 sections of the investigation before Parliament.

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