Pressure is piling on the director of public prosecutions as senior politicians warned her decision not to prosecute Lord Janner over child sex abuses was ‘damaging public confidence’. Last week it was confirmed by the CPS that the former Labour peer would not be charged with a string of historic sex offences against children due to the ‘severity’ of his dementia, rendering him ‘unfit to stand trial’.
Despite ‘sufficient evidence’ to charge Lord Greville Janner with over 22 offences against nine alleged victims between the 1960s and 1980, DPP Alison Saunders said it was not in the public interest because of his health. Disappointed at the CPS’s decision, a cross-party group, in an open letter to The Times, urged Janner’s victims to seek civil redress.
Janner must face justice, the group warned, or the public will view the CPS’s decision not to prosecute as a ‘whitewash’. ‘Have we learnt anything from the mistakes of the past?’ the group, co-ordinated by Labour’s Simon Danczuk, questioned.
‘As long as justice is not seen to be done and the greater public interest is not served, the public will see attempts to investigate establishment figures involved in historic child abuse as a whitewash. The CPS has acknowledged the case against Lord Janner passes its evidential test, and there are established precedents in proceeding with cases against defendants with advanced dementia.
Defendants have been charged with child abuse and found guilty in their absence. One man’s ill health cannot be a barrier to the greater public interest.’
The letter, co-signed by Zac Goldsmith of the Conservatives, UKIP’s Mark Reckless and Caroline Lucas of the Green Party, warned that the DPP’s decision is ‘damaging public confidence’ in the criminal justice system and called for her to reverse what one victim described as a ‘perverse’ decision.
After waiving his right to anonymity, Hamish Baillie, one of the nine alleged victims, said it was a ‘complete travesty’ that Lord Janner would never face court. He questioned:
‘What about the interests of the victims? As far as I’m concerned, her [Ms Saunders’s] actions are barely any less perverse than the abuse inflicted on me, she should initiate an inquiry into her own conduct and then step down because Alison Saunders certainly hasn’t been doing her job properly.’
A CPS spokesman said: ‘It is the DPP’s job to make these extremely difficult decisions, and that is what the DPP has done. As the ultimate decision-maker, the DPP receives advice from internal and external lawyers but the decision is based, ultimately, on her own assessment of the relevant law and circumstances of the case.’
In a statement, Janner’s family have described him has ‘entirely innocent’. He is ‘a man of great integrity and high repute with a long and unblemished record of public service’, they added.