January 21 2022

The CPS decision on Janner might please no-one, but it happens to be right

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The CPS decision on Janner might please no-one, but it happens to be right

Sketch by Isobel Williams. http://isobelwilliams.blogspot.co.uk/

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Sketch by Isobel Williams. I Isobel will be talking at Aberystwyth University on 22 April  www.aber.ac.uk/en/events/lectures/isobel-williams/

Sketch by Isobel Williams. Isobel will be talking at Aberystwyth University on 22 April (www.aber.ac.uk/en/events/lectures/isobel-williams)

Yesterday the CPS announced that Greville Janner, the barrister and Labour peer, would not be prosecuted for historic sex offences. This was following an application of the Code for Crown Prosecutors where they concluded that although the evidential test was met, there was no public interest in a prosecution.

  • This article first appeared on Dan’s blog here.

It seems to me that decision of the CPS is plainly right. It is worth reading the full decision of the CPS, where it is explained fully. The CPS sets out the position in relation to the medical evidence :

  • Lord Janner is suffering from a degenerative dementia which is rapidly becoming more severe. He requires continuous care both day and night.
  • His evidence could not be relied upon in court and he could not have any meaningful engagement with the court process, and the court would find it impossible to proceed.
  • On the Mini Mental State examination all four doctors were in general agreement as to the level of cognitive ability.
  • The condition will only deteriorate, there is no prospect of recovery.
  • Manipulation (“putting it on”) is “out of the question”.
  • There is no risk of future offending.

In light of that, and the fact that is clear that he no longer presents (if he ever did – see below) any risk to the public, there is clearly no public interest in pursuing a case. It would not be in any real sense a trial, and would not legally be a trial that would determine whether he did anything criminal. The whole process would take at least a year from now to conclude (probably longer), and the trial would be many weeks, if not months, (and very expensive), even if it went its full course.

Two years ago I wrote a piece about the CPS habit of giving press conferences, that time with respect to Dave Lee Travis. I questioned whether it was sensible, or indeed proper, for them to make the statements they do. This applies with even greater force in a case such as this. They have basically stated that Lord Janner is guilty of these offences, but it is not in the public interest to prosecute him.

There is no chance that there would be a libel trial of course, not least because the phrasing is that the evidential test was met. But the implication is clear. This may well be right of course, but whilst, as you can imagine, Twitter has let rip, we should expect more of a public body. Why mention the evidential test? As the pubic interest test is not met, why not just say that (if you have to say anything) and state that the evidential test does not need to be considered as there cannot be a prosecution however serious the case?

This was extremely strong. ‘Following the decision, Leicestershire police issued a statement saying they were considering challenging the decision in the courts.’ The officer in charge said the decision was ‘perverse’ and the police force were ‘exploring what possible legal avenues there may be to challenge this decision and victims themselves have a right to review under a CPS procedure. A police source confirmed that the most likely avenue open to the police would be a judicial review which could take months to come to court.

This is unheard of in my experience.

Anyone who works within the system knows full well that the biggest critics of the CPS are not defence lawyers (or even Judges) but the police. Even so, this never spills out, certainly not in such a strong and public way.

The police state that they are looking at ways they can challenge this. A judicial review would be very expense (but then it’s not their money) and very hard to win. It’s certainly possible to successfully judicially review a decision to not prosecute (I have done previously), but it is a high test, especially when the issue is the public interest test, where the CPS have very wide latitude. There is the possibility that one or more of the complainants could ask for a review, but even if this did apply, this decision was not made lightly and was clearly a high up one. In light of that, there’s not much chance that the review will come up with a different outcome.

The other option is to undertake a private prosecution. Unlike defendants, a prosecutor is entitled to claim their legal costs off the state (even if they lose). I still wouldn’t encourage this, as the outcome will be the same in the sense that he will be unfit to stand trial (and there is a good chance that the CPS might take the case over and drop it and/or a Court may stay it as an abuse of process).

I doubt that any of these will be successful, but the reaction of the police may be one that they come to regret. If for no other reason that the next time there is a decision by the CPS anything less that condemnation by the police will be seen as agreement. But there are wider issues of constitutional concern raised by the police reaction.

Shouldn’t he have been prosecuted before?Yes, as the CPS made clear. He should have been arrested and prosecuted many years ago. It seems that he wasn’t because of his position. That is certainly wrong. Simon Danczuk (MP as was, and will be again soon) said: ‘This terrible decision is bringing the whole justice system into disrepute and will be devastating news to the alleged victims. It sends out an appalling message and suggests we haven’t learned anything from the mistakes of the past’.

I disagree with him, you don’t right the wrongs of the past by creating fresh ones.

This was a sensible, albeit brave, decision of the CPS for which they will get a fair amount of stick. I am certainly no cheerleader for the CPS, but they have got this one right.

5 responses to “The CPS decision on Janner might please no-one, but it happens to be right”

  1. Hello Dan Bunting ….

    You write above:

    “there was no public interest in a prosecution.”

    Carry on perverting the meaning of standard words, and enjoy floating around in total detachment from real human beings.

    I can make it TOTALLY CLEAR that there is MASSIVE PUBLIC INTEREST in achieving whatever Judicial Process in this case that can and does get achieved in the ABSENCE of the accused due to the advanced state of dementia in him or her.

    This was applied in a case in 2010, when the foreman of the Jury did NOT say that the absent defendant was “GUILTY”, but that he had “Committed the Acts”.

    Do you have anything to do with the Law, in a professional sense, or are you a misguided amateur who does not know legal facts and legislation?

    Sincerely, George Gretton…

  2. Colin says:

    Sorry Dan Your analysis is wrong. There is no provision in the CPS Code of Practice to exempt people with dementia from facing trial.

    If we accept for the sake of argument that Janner is indeed suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, there are three precedents where paedophiles have been tried and convicted of sexual crimes against children. The names are David Massingham, John Hayford and Michael Collingwood.

    Alison Saunders in her justification document accepts that the evidential basis for a criminal prosecution of Janner is sound. However, she argues that there is no public interest in prosecuting him because he is unfit to plead.

    She bases this argument on the evidence of four medical experts who agree that he has dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease, and that they have “general agreement” as to the level of cognitive ability on a Mini Mental State examination.

    However, there is no reference to any brain scan having been carried our. If scans were performed but reports on the scans were left out of the CPS justification document, there has been a failure of due diligence in reporting, and Saunders should be rebuked.

    If on the other hand brain scans on Janner were not performed, there has been serious negligence. If they were not carried out Saunders should be invited to consider her position.

    Either Alison Saunders knew of these cases and negligently failed to deal with them in her report, or she did not know of them, in which case there was a failure of due diligence as a lawyer.

    In the absence of such provision, but in the presence of sufficient evidential basis to proceed, Alison Saunders has used the public interest test.

    Now clearly there is a major public interest in bringing to court people who are abused of serious sexual crimes against children, especially children who for one reason or another were in the care of public organisations.

    First, sexual abuse has a devastating effect on the subsequent lives of survivors of abuse, and there is a need to demonstrate that society will not tolerate child abuse, even if carried out by VIPs.

    Second, the Law itself comes into disrepute if there is a public perception that VIP status confers immunity against justice. You must be aware that already there exists a common perception that this is the case. This view is particularly prevalent in the community of survivors of sexual abuse.

    If Janner escapes trial, this perception will increase, both among survivors and among the general public. It is not in the public interest for there to be a perception that there is one law for the rich, another for the poor.

    • Hello All, and thanks for adding observations…

      There are 25 WITNESSES is this case … that the Leicestershire Police have, it seems, caringly and responsibly interviewed.

      I have yet to come back here with my second barrel of my metaphorical shotgun for Barbara Hewson, or whatever her name is … Jon seems to have declined, once again, to publish my first, for whatever reason.

      Jon, I gave you notice to quit before, and you made an accommodation then; if you don’t publish my first blast at her “false memories” “material” by the end of this week, I’m out of here; I’m wasting my time and energy, and I have massive other uses for them.

      The chase re the CPA and Saunders has moved on now – the pressure is now massively on for a “Trial of Facts”, that is the technical name for a Judicial Process in the absence of the accused, which respects the targets’ of crimes Rights as well as those of the Accused, in this case Janner.

      A colleague is now planning to accuse him in Public of his Crimes, and that will either have to be left to lie, or challenged in a High Court under Defamation… we are reconnecting with the Ancient Principles of Free Speech and Morality..

      I speak ill of the disabled or dead when the needs of the living demand it.

      And this may take out Alison Saunders…


      George Gretton

      • Jon Robins says:

        George, your comment is up. As you know, comments go through ‘moderation’ – and so there is a delay. Your previous comments which haven’t been run referred to your own cases as previously explained.

  3. Mariana says:

    A fascinating analysis, but I paused at ‘Shouldn’t he have been prosecuted before?Yes, as the CPS made clear. He should have been arrested and prosecuted many years ago. It seems that he wasn’t because of his position.’
    Hmm. Well, Alison Saunders certainly thinks so, I guess. But the last time she second-guessed a prosecution like this, we got the Michael Le Vell trial, a very flimsy case, reportedly based on ‘recovered memory’.
    If you look at the way accusations against Janner first emerged at the Frank Beck trial, I think there are enough concerns about the witness to give a prosecutor doubts even today. Another accusation surfaced during Operation Magnolia, which didn’t manage to prosecute anyone.
    We don’t know a lot about the post-Beck accusations and perhaps Saunders is right. But perhaps, however subconsciously, she’s influenced by the Cyril Smith case and the mood music about politicians and cover-ups.
    Which indeed may have influenced you. We know that until recently the bar for prosecuting sex offences was set very high. The need for corroboration, for ‘strikingly’ similar fact between different accusations, and, maybe, a prevalent scepticism, meant more cases being rejected and, likely, some victims going without justice. Yet only with politicians do we assume this was a result of their position. Are we being quite logical?

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