Lord Janner: Criminal proceedings over abuse claims end

Lord Janner Image copyright Getty Images

Criminal proceedings against the late Labour peer Lord Janner over sex abuse charges have ended because of his death, an Old Bailey judge has said.

The peer had been accused of 22 counts of sex offences against boys, over a 20-year period from the 1960s - allegations his family denied.

A jury was to be asked to decide - without resolving whether he was guilty - if the incidents had taken place.

A lawyer for some of the alleged victims said they were "devastated".

Meanwhile, 12 former residents of children's homes say they were abused by Lord Janner, a BBC investigation has found.

Goddard scrutiny

Lord Janner, who had been suffering from dementia, died in December aged 87.

A trial of the facts had been due to be held in April 2016. However, prosecutor Richard Whittam QC said on Friday that the law provided no circumstances whereby a dead defendant could face a trial, even a trial of the facts.

Mr Whittam also revealed in court that more charges had been due to be brought.

And he said the defence had been in the process of trying to get the case thrown out due to an "abuse of process".

Mr Justice Openshaw said: "There is nothing more to be said. That's the end of the proceedings, that the defendant is dead."

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Image caption Lord Janner's career kept him in the company of many dignitaries, such as the Queen

The Goddard inquiry - the independent inquiry examining historical child sex abuse in England and Wales, chaired by New Zealand judge Justice Lowell Goddard - said it would resume its investigation into the allegations against Lord Janner now that the criminal case had ended.

However, it said the public hearings which would take place in the case were not the same as a trial of the facts in a criminal court.

"They will be focused on different issues, subject to a different procedure and determined according to different standards of proof," it said.

It said it would seek evidence and submissions from all relevant parties, and make findings of fact where appropriate.

"If allegations are found to be true, the inquiry will then consider the extent of any institutional failures to protect children from abuse and make recommendations for the future."

The BBC's home affairs correspondent, Tom Symonds, says he understood the inquiry was considering televising some of the evidence sessions relating to Lord Janner.

Who was Lord Janner?

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  • 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 2015

The allegations centred on claims that Lord Janner, when he was MP for Leicester West, befriended the manager of a children's care home to allow him access to children and carry out serious sexual offences.

One man, Mark, told the BBC Lord Janner would undress him, wash him and touch him intimately during visits to the Moel Llys children's home, to perform magic shows.

He said: "Washing a child is abuse. It was touchy-feely kind of stuff. It's mentally scarred me for life, I can never get rid of it. You lose a bit of trust. You feel ashamed, you feel dirty."

The BBC has learned that lawyers are now representing at least 20 men and one woman, including the 12 residents of children's homes, who say the former MP abused them.

Police have said they have information from 25 alleged victims.

Peter Garsden, from the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers, is representing 12 people who allege they were abused by Lord Janner.

He said: "They are immensely frustrated that they haven't had the chance to have justice done and for them to give their version of events to a court of law.

"Because what matters is that they are heard and believed and that's now not going to happen. And so they feel cheated by the whole process."

'Real travesty'

Leicestershire Police said an investigation into claims not just against Lord Janner but against other individuals was "live and will continue".

Leicestershire County Council said it had introduced procedures to strengthen child protection since the period in question.

Liz Dux, specialist abuse lawyer at Slater and Gordon, who represents six of Lord Janner's alleged victims, said: "My clients are obviously devastated that they are no longer able to give their evidence in a criminal court.

"They understand the reasons why but that doesn't make up for the real travesty - that many gave their statements decades ago and have been denied justice through a failure to prosecute earlier when Janner was alive and well."

Her clients "sincerely hope" the Goddard Inquiry will make their cases a priority and allow them to give evidence in person, she added.

Labour issued a statement which said: "Lord Janner was suspended from Labour Party before his death. The Labour Party will co-operate fully with the Goddard Inquiry."

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Image caption Lord Janner is seen showing PM David Cameron with a book of dedications for Holocaust Memorial Day in 2011

Peter Saunders, of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood, told the BBC the decision to not hold a trial of the facts was a "disastrous day for child protection".

He added: "It's a disastrous day for the police, who did an excellent job and presented a case that should have been prosecuted a long, long time ago.

"It's a shameful, shameful system that has let us down and emphasised and demonstrated beyond any doubt that that man was protected from prosecution".

Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders said in April last year there was enough evidence to prosecute Lord Janner for 22 sex offences allegedly committed in Leicestershire children's homes between 1969 and 1988, but that he was too sick to stand trial.

She also said the CPS had been wrong not to prosecute Lord Janner following investigations in 1991 and 2007, and that Leicestershire police had been wrong not to pursue him in 2002.

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