UK

Prosecutors to hold hearing over Janner abuse case move

Lord Janner Image copyright PA

A court hearing is to be held following the death of Lord Janner, who was ruled unfit to stand trial on child sexual abuse charges, prosecutors have said.

The Crown Prosecution Service said it was "considering the procedural implications" following the former Labour peer and MP's death aged 87.

BBC legal correspondent Clive Coleman said this was unlikely to mean the first trial of a dead defendant.

The hearing will be take place in the High Court on or after 11 January.

Lord Janner had been accused of 22 counts of historical sex offences against boys dating back to the 1960s - allegations his family denied.

He had been suffering from dementia and died peacefully at his home on Saturday, his family said.

'Formal confirmation'

Lord Janner's death was confirmed to peers at the start of business in the House of Lords on Monday.

Lord Speaker Baroness D'Souza said: "On behalf of the House I extend our condolences to the noble Lord's family and friends."

Earlier this year, the director of public prosecutions decided not to bring charges because of Lord Janner's health - but the decision was overturned after an appeal by the alleged victims.

A judge later ruled Lord Janner was unfit to face proceedings and a "trial of the facts" in the case was set for next April. A jury was to be asked to decide if he committed the abuse, without reaching a finding of guilt or conviction.


Analysis

Image copyright PA

By Clive Coleman, BBC legal correspondent

There is simply no precedent for the trial of a dead person, whether that be by way of a conventional Crown Court trial or a "trial of the facts".

Today's statement by the Crown Prosecution Service may appear to open a possibility of the first ever trial of a dead defendant, but the guidance on its website, on Termination of Proceedings: Death of a Defendant, clearly states "formal evidence of death should be given… Prosecutors should inform the court of a defendant death and produce a certified copy of his death certificate. The court should be invited to mark the indictment accordingly".

This process ends criminal proceedings, not just usually, but in all cases where a defendant dies before the completion of a trial.


In a statement, the Crown Prosecution Service said: "Greville Janner faced criminal proceedings for child sex offences, with a trial of the facts scheduled to take place in April 2016.

"When a defendant dies during criminal proceedings, it is usual that the case no longer goes ahead following formal confirmation of the defendant's death at a hearing before the court.

"However, we are considering the procedural implications of this specific case. As the High Court will close today until January 11 2016, there can be no hearing before that date.

"It is right that this matter is considered properly in open court, and we will therefore not be commenting further ahead of a court hearing."

The former MP for Leicester North West and later Leicester West was charged with sexual offences against nine alleged victims.

'Left in limbo'

There are 15 counts of indecent assault and seven counts of a separate sexual offence, with most of the charges relating to children aged 16 or under at the time.

One alleged victim told the BBC he felt "numb" and was "left in limbo" after the peer's death, adding "there is nowhere left to go to prove our stories".

Sir Clive Loader, Leicestershire Police and Crime Commissioner, told the BBC he was "disappointed" the alleged victims would not "see justice being done".

"I have to say as well that we could have been in a different place had the director of public prosecutions made the right decision quickly and initially," he added.

"We'd have been through this now and the court case would have happened."


Who was Lord Janner?

  • 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
  • Diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2009
  • Suspended from the Labour Party in April
  • Ruled unfit to stand trial over allegations of child sexual abuse in December

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