Lord Janner: Howard Riddle orders the peer to attend court
Lord Greville Janner will be in court when allegations that he abused children are heard. Well, he will be if he complies with the Chief Magistrate Howard Riddle’s order issued at Westminster Magistrates’ Court. Yesterday Janner did not appear in court. He laywers said he was “unfit”.
The former Labour peer, 87, has dementia. He denies all 22 claims that he abused children in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.
Said Riddle – and what a great name that is:
“I further understand, and this is very significant, it is likely to have no long-term effect on him. He must appear for a comparatively short period of time. He is free to go if he becomes distressed. This will probably be achieved in less than a minute. Nevertheless the law requires his presence.”
The Times hears the medical opinions:
Andrew Smith, QC, for Lord Janner, told the court that the peer was unfit to attend and called two consultant psychiatrists to testify to the severity of his condition.
James Warner said he had no doubt about Lord Janner’s dementia and that the peer’s condition was severe and progressively deteriorating.
He added: “Lord Janner would not be able to understand what is said to him or about him. If asked a question he would not be in a position to respond meaningfully to that question.”
Dr Warner said that Lord Janner was highly likely to become distressed if brought to the courtroom and could suffer what doctors term a catastrophic reaction. However, there would be no longterm effects from any distress caused by coming to the court.
Norman Poole said he had examined Lord Janner last month and the peer had become angry and irritable at their meeting because he did not understand what was happening.
What then? The BBC explains:
Whether Lord Janner is fit to plead – to take part in a full criminal trial – will be decided by a crown court judge. He will consider the medical evidence. If he is not deemed fit he will face what is known as a trial of the facts. There will be no examination of the mental elements of the crime, no finding of guilt and no conviction.
So the point of this is what?
It is a relatively rare procedure normally used not in cases where a defendant is said to suffer from dementia, but where they pose a danger and need to be hospitalised for the safety of themselves and others. The court cannot impose a hospitalisation or supervision order unless a jury has found the defendant performed the physical act of the crime.
Ia Janner a danger to the public at large?
However, Lord Janner can only be sent to face the fitness to plead process and trial of the facts in the crown court, if he attends the magistrates court, or his lawyers have instructions to consent on his behalf.
If they do not, the prosecution may have to make a little used application to a High Court judge for something called a voluntary bill of indictment. This has the effect of by-passing the magistrates court and delivering the defendant direct to the crown court.
Lots of ifs. And we’ve not even considerd the evidence.