Lord Janner: the fight to be anti-Establishment, tea and nonce-sense
Lord Janner: a look at reporting on the Labour peer accsued on child abuse. He denies all allegations.
The Sun: Columnist Rod Liddle is bold. Will Lord Janner reply? Will his lawyers?
Is the media biased against Janner? Are we all looking for what we want to find? This is today’s round-up of reporting on the Labour peer:
The Daily Mail, Page 6: “Janner gave his children deeds to his £2m home at height of abuse probe”
It puts the luxury apartment out of reach for potential child abuse victims suing the peer for compensation. His flat, in a gated community near Hampstead Heath, north London, was transferred free of charge to his two daughters and son in March last year – the same month that police raided his Westminster office, and three months after they had swooped on his home.
One plus one equals…
Last night, Liz Dux, a solicitor from Slater and Gordon representing several of the peer’s alleged victims, said: ‘They will be asking how a man who lacks the mental capacity to stand trial has sufficient capacity to give valid instructions to transfer his assets. It will be of great concern to them to see what may be their last opportunity to achieve any sort of justice deliberately obstructed. The court would be asked to look at any transactions undertaken in recent months which could constitute efforts to defraud potential creditors.’
A trial must be more stressful than signing a few papers, no?
Peter Garsden, a solicitor representing two other alleged victims, said: ‘Obviously it puts obstacles in the way … There must be suspicions about the intention of the transfer. It would be looked on very critically by a court of law.’
Lord Janner is in his 80s.
Civil cases are being prepared to force Lord Janner to pay sizeable compensation to his alleged victims. His flat had been owned solely by him since June 1988, Land Registry documents show.
Alleged victims. How can they prove guilt to the law’s satisfaction?
The Mail then rakes over the familiar ground about how ill is too ill:
Any solicitor assisting with the conveyancing process would have had to be sure Lord Janner was of sound mind. Since he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2009, the former Labour MP has claimed more than £100,000 in parliamentary expenses and allowances. On April 9, he was fit enough to sign a letter saying he wanted to remain in the House of Lords.
That is just nuts. How can someone so ill be part of the country’s legislature?
A week later, the Crown Prosecution Service decided Lord Janner would not be tried over child sex allegations as he was suffering so much from Alzheimer’s disease that he could not understand any charges against him, let alone answer them.
The DPP stated that his his condition would make his evidence unreliable.
The public interest test and Lord Janner’s medical condition
14. The question that remains is whether there should be a prosecution of Lord Janner now. The second stage of the test already referred to is the public interest test. The CPS’s conclusion, for the reasons that follow, is that it would not be in the public interest to launch criminal proceedings now.
15. At the outset, it is emphasised that but for medical considerations, it would undoubtedly have been in the public interest to prosecute. Public interest factors in favour of a prosecution include that the allegations are of very serious offending; the complainants were young, vulnerable children and the allegations involve the alleged abuse of power and position. The CPS equally has no doubt that, if the correct decisions had been taken about the evidential test in relation to the previous investigations, the public interest test would have been passed and prosecution should have followed.
16. However, the public interest test now has to be considered in the light of current facts. The key facts for that purpose relate to Lord Janner’s present medical condition. They are as follows.
17. In 2009, Lord Janner was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, which is the most common cause of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is a physical disease affecting the brain. Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, which means that gradually, over time, more parts of the brain are damaged. As this happens, the symptoms become more severe. There is no treatment or cure.
18. Four medical experts, all experienced and highly qualified, have examined Lord Janner – two instructed by his own legal team, two by the police and prosecutors. The most recent medical report is dated 31 March 2015. The key findings are as follows:
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.
19. The CPS considers that in the light of the medical evidence Lord Janner would inevitably be found not fit to plead, not fit to instruct his legal team and not fit to challenge or give evidence in a trial. That means that a criminal trial, to determine whether or not he was guilty of any offence, could not now properly take place.
So much for the DPP. But what of its leaders, Alison Saunders? Wwll, she’s been talking with the Evening Standard. She says:
“If somebody wants to challenge my decision I’m not afraid. The proper way to challenge it is through the right to review or a judicial review… I’m confident that if they want to do that my decision will stand up. I thought long and hard before making it and I’m confident I got it right. My job is not to be populist. It’s not to make decisions on the basis of what people want. It’s about making the right decisions. Sometimes that means it won’t be popular but if I’m fulfilling my duties as DPP that’s the right thing to do…
“This was not an easy decision. I understand how frustrated and disappointed the complainants must be about it. I share their frustration.For me it would have been much better to prosecute this case. If it were not for Janner’s medical condition we would have been prosecuting this. But I don’t think it’s for me as DPP to take the easy way out. The easy way out would have undoubtedly been for me to duck all the criticism there is out there, to let it go before the courts. That’s not what the DPP is there to do. We’re there to make the right decision, not the easy or the popular one. I knew it would be controversial….
“The medical evidence was very clear. He wouldn’t be fit to stand trial, he wouldn’t understand the questions, he wouldn’t understand the process, he wouldn’t be able to understand instructions.
“We pushed on the medical evidence because of some concerns that have been articulated. Was he really unfit to do all this, was he going to be recovering, was there going to be a risk to the public, was he putting it on? We asked those questions and because of the answers I made the decision I did.”
And then this:
“I’m not part of the Establishment. If it was an Establishment cover-up I’ve had to pay a very heavy price for it. I am independent. I guard my independence as DPP very jealously. It’s certainly not a cover-up.”
The country’s “top prosecutor” is not part of the Establishment? If she’s not, who the hell is?
Is Nick Clegg pat of the Establishment? The Deputy PM is quoted in the Guardian:
While expressing “huge respect” for the independence of the prosecuting authorities, the deputy prime minister said it was essential that people understood why Alison Saunders, the DPP, had arrived at such a “highly controversial” decision.
“It is a lonely post,” he said on LBC Radio. “That is why any decision that is taken, particularly one as controversial as this, needs to enjoy the confidence of everybody. That is why I think this suggestion of making sure it is looked at again, or reviewed again independently, might be something which should now be done.”
Review the review. Good idea:
“I don’t want to be jumping in with both boots, interfering into the independent decisions that the director of public prosecutions arrives at, but just, as a human being, I have to say here is an individual where there are some very serious allegations made and a lot of totally understandable disquiet that he is not going to be facing justice in any way,” Clegg said.
The Times ignores the posturing to look at the legal angle. Write David Pannick QC (yep – that really is his name):
Of course the decision is disappointing to the complainants. But the criminal process does not exist to give a platform for the making of allegations against a defendant who is incapable of defending himself. The gravity of the allegations makes it especially appropriate to protect such a defendant from unfairness, particularly when he denied the allegations in the past while able to do so.
The DPP has acknowledged that past decisions made in relation to the possible prosecution of Lord Janner were wrong. But earlier mistakes cannot justify now instituting proceedings which cannot fairly be tried.
A leading article in this newspaper last Saturday referred to “widespread public suspicion of a long-standing establishment cover-up of child sex abuse by men in positions of power”. There is such general suspicion, but prosecution decisions are made by an independent DPP precisely to prevent improper or extraneous factors being considered. For the DPP to institute what would inevitably be an unfair prosecution of Lord Janner just to avoid people wrongly thinking that the DPP is part of some conspiracy would truly undermine public confidence in the criminal justice system.
Writing in the Express, Anne Widdecombe agrees:
As I wrote on this page not long ago she has weighted the system so heavily in favour of the accusers that men are condemned almost before they stand trial.
She is, however, utterly right not to prosecute Greville Janner and if justice in this case is not to be done then the fault lies firmly with her predecessors who refused to bring prosecutions on not one but three occasions.
Britain prides itself on its justice system and particularly on the rules of natural justice.
It is natural justice that a man should be capable of understanding the charges against him and of defending himself.
A defendant who cannot remember what the prosecution said five minutes ago, who cannot recognise even his nearest and dearest let alone figures from the past and who would be hard put to name the day of the week cannot by definition be expected to answer charges.
So I must reluctantly admit that the dreadful Ms Saunders is right even though there is some doubt about the extent of Lord Janner’s dementia .
Let’s end today’s round-up with Suzanne Moore in the New Statesman:
…when a lord offered to take me to tea, I leapt at the chance to cross from the green carpet to the red and look at the Lords.
I thought Greville Janner, for it was he, would be explaining how the Lords functioned. Instead, he spent the entire time telling me about a birth he had attended. In gory detail. The birth of his grandchild.
This seemed to me extremely inappropriate. What woman has her own father there while she gives birth? I don’t know if what he told me was true. Mostly I squirmed, as I did not know why on earth he was describing this intimate experience to me.
All I can say now is that over the years, in this House of Rules, I have met several powerful men who have no idea of boundaries. Of any kind. At all.
Such are the facts…