Lord Janner appears in court over child sex abuse charges

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Media captionLord Janner's court appearance lasted less than a minute, as Tom Symonds reports

Lord Janner has appeared in court for the first time over historical child sex abuse charges.

The 87-year-old, who has dementia, appeared at Westminster Magistrates' Court for less than a minute.

Lord Janner faces 22 charges spanning the 1960s to the 1980s and was told his case would be sent to crown court.

His attendance comes after the judge warned he faced arrest if he did not appear following repeated efforts by his lawyers to avoid him turning up.

The appearance, during which Lord Janner confirmed his name, was brief, with the charges read out after he left and the full hearing taking less than 12 minutes.

He is accused of 15 counts of indecent assault and seven counts of a separate sexual offence, against a total of nine complainants.

In court

Image copyright Julia Quenzler

BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw

At 14:01 a large brown door to the left of the magistrates' bench in courtroom one edged open.

A female usher appeared, followed by two other women and then a frail looking man gingerly walked in.

"Oohh," he said. "Isn't it wonderful?"

An extraordinary legal wrangle, which had involved four court hearings spanning eight days, was over: Lord Greville Janner was finally in court.

The appearance before magistrates of someone accused of a crime is a requirement of the law.

Lord Janner's lawyers had resisted it on the grounds of his severe dementia.

Although he was able to confirm his name during the 59 seconds he spent in the courtroom, he looked bewildered and waved, an inappropriate gesture for such a setting, before he was led out.

Lord Janner, of Muswell Hill, north London, was released on unconditional bail, with the next hearing to be held at Southwark Crown Court on 1 September.

BBC home affairs correspondent Tom Symonds said it was likely Lord Janner's lawyers would argue at crown court that he was not fit to plead.

The peer earlier arrived at court in a silver Toyota that was forced to stop as photographers surrounded it.

Image caption Lord Janner's arrival at court
Image copyright Getty Images
Image copyright PA
Image caption Lord Janner arrives back at home after the hearing

He had initially failed to attend Friday's hearing, despite a High Court ruling that he must attend.

His lawyer, Paul Ozin, had said a live video link from the peer's home would be "least likely" to cause him to suffer, or failing that a live link from the court building or a police station.

But deputy chief magistrate Emma Arbuthnot refused the request, saying: "Even if I have to have him arrested I am going to resolve this matter today."

She said live links were only permitted for giving evidence from police stations when someone was in custody - which Lord Janner is not.

Who is Lord Janner?

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  • 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"

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".

Labour suspension

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.

His family have strongly denied claims he used his power as an MP to abuse young boys over the course of three decades.

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