Lord Janner not at court to face child sex abuse charges

Lord Janner Image copyright PA

Lord Janner has failed to appear in court to face child sex abuse charges, despite the High Court ruling he must attend a hearing.

The 87-year-old, who has dementia, had been due at Westminster Magistrates' Court in relation to 22 charges spanning the 1960s to the 1980s.

Lord Janner's lawyer said he wanted him to appear via video link, but the judge said the issue must be resolved.

The peer's lawyer later said he would appear in court at 14:00 BST.

His family says he is innocent.

'Adverse reaction'

Lord Janner's lawyer, Paul Ozin, said a live link from the peer's home would be the option that was "least likely" to cause him to suffer.

Mr Ozin added: "There is evidence that moving him carries with it a risk of an adverse reaction to him, or other harm."

Alternatively, he suggested Lord Janner could appear by video from within the court building - which he said would be less intimidating than appearing in the dock - or from a police station.

But prosecutor Louise Oakley argued live links were only permitted for giving evidence from police stations when someone was in custody - which Lord Janner was not.

Deputy chief magistrate Emma Arbuthnot refused the request, saying a hearing would only last "40 seconds" and the peer did not need to "gaze around the court".

She also warned Mr Ozin not to "mess around" after he argued for a "wide interpretation" of the law to allow Lord Janner to appear by video link.

Image copyright Alex Therrien
Image caption The BBC's home affairs correspondent tweets from court

The judge had earlier suggested the peer could either appear at Westminster Magistrates' Court or Wood Green Crown Court, in north London, which is closer to his home.

The BBC's home affairs correspondent, Danny Shaw, described the situation as "quite extraordinary", adding that what had been likely to be a very brief court appearance had turned into a "legal saga".

He said it was clear Lord Janner's lawyers wanted him to appear in "some form or another" and that they had "moved back" from their position of saying he was too ill to attend.

The case has been adjourned while the options are considered.

Who is Lord Janner?

Image copyright PA
  • Greville Janner was born in Cardiff in 1928
  • Served in the Army and studied at Cambridge before becoming a barrister and then QC
  • Labour MP for Leicester North West and then Leicester West from 1970 until retiring in 1997, when he was made a life peer
  • Served as president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews
  • Diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2009
  • Suspended from the Labour Party but will remain a member of the House of Lords until his death or until he retires
  • Described by his family as a man of "great integrity" and "entirely innocent of any wrongdoing"

'Public interest'

On Thursday, Lord Janner's legal team lost a High Court bid to prevent him having to attend the hearing.

Mr Ozin argued Lord Janner had "virtually no language left at all" and was likely to have a "catastrophic reaction" if he attended court.

But the judges said the public interest outweighed any personal distress he might experience, and any distress would be "of short duration".

His lawyers said they were not planning to appeal against the ruling.

His appearance had been expected to last less than a minute and he was to be allowed to be accompanied by a member of his family and a nurse.

Lord Janner's family have strongly denied claims he used his power as an MP to abuse young boys over three decades.

Earlier this year, Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders decided not to bring charges against Lord Janner because of his ill health - but this decision was overturned after an appeal by the alleged victims.

If a crown court judge decides the former Labour MP for Leicester is fit to plead, a full trial may take place.

If not, there will be a trial of the facts, where a jury will decide only if he committed the physical acts of abuse, with no finding of guilt and no conviction.

Greville Janner was made Lord Janner of Braunstone in 1997. He remains a life peer, but has been on leave of absence since 2014. He was suspended from the Labour Party in April.

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