The decision by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) not to prosecute Lord Janner over child sex abuse allegations is set to be overturned.
A senior barrister who has spent several weeks examining the evidence as part of an independent review has concluded that the allegations should be a heard even though the peer has advanced dementia
The Mail Online report:
The QC is said to have serious reservations about the original decision not to charge the 86-year-old and is to recommend to Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders that it be overturned. Barring a last minute change of mind, his ruling – due to be made public next week – paves the way for the evidence against Janner to be tested in a criminal court – in a procedure known as a ‘trial of the facts’ – even if he is too unwell to attend.
Never before has such a high-profile Crown Prosecution Service decision been overturned following a review.
The development will pile pressure on Mrs Saunders, who has suffered a torrid two months amid questions over her handling of the Janner affair. She is expected to face renewed calls from critics to consider her position.
The extraordinary twist in the case comes after a group of Janner’s alleged victims applied for a formal review of the decision not to charge him.
The appeal was launched after Mrs Saunders ruled the peer should not be charged on health grounds, despite saying there was enough evidence to prosecute him for 22 sex offences against nine people. She also ruled out holding a trial of facts, which can be used when suspects are unable to enter pleas or instruct lawyers.
A spokesman for the CPS said that they have yet to conclude their review of the decision not to charge Lord Janner and have not yet given a date for the completion of their own investigations.
An analysis by James Slack:
Trial of facts but no way he can be punished
The case against Lord Janner is likely to be tested under a little-known law which allows for a ‘trial of the facts’ – but there is no prospect of him receiving any punishment.
Under the Criminal Procedure (Insanity) Act 1964 a judge can decide, on medical evidence, that a person is unfit to plead.
In the case of Janner, he has been assessed by four medical experts – two acting for the Crown Prosecution Service and two for the Labour peer’s defence team. All agreed that, owing to degenerative dementia, his evidence could not be relied upon in court and he could not have any meaningful engagement with the court process.
The judge in charge of the case will, at the outset, make a formal declaration in open court that he is unfit for trial. He will then ask a jury to decide – on the basis of evidence given by prosecution lawyers, including statements provided by alleged victims – whether or not Janner did the acts he was accused of.
A defence team will be able to put the case for Janner, though he will not need to be in court.
The law is clear that it is not a formal trial, and should not be described as one, because the defendant cannot put forward a defence himself.
As a result, there is no verdict of guilty and the court cannot pass a criminal sentence. All it can do is to make a hospital order, a supervision order or an order for the defendant’s absolute discharge. Essentially, it is there to protect the public – not deliver a punishment. In Janner’s case, because of his age and ill health, whatever the outcome he is highly unlikely to be considered any threat.
The decision to seek a ‘trial of the facts’ will be seen as a humiliating rebuke for Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders – who considered the idea and dismissed it.
In her statement announcing Janner would face no action, she said there was no public interest in pursuing a course that would inevitably end in an absolute discharge. What she overlooked – at great cost to her own reputation – was the determination of the alleged victims to have their evidence put before a court.