In Brief

Lord Janner was facing new sex abuse charges

Peer's death may see 'trial of the facts' hearing abandoned

Lord Janner was facing new sex abuse charges before his death, the Daily Telegraph reveals this morning.

Legal sources said the Labour peer, who died on Saturday, was to have been accused of a "significant number" of additional offences before a court hearing which had been due to take place in 2016.

The fresh allegations arose from four new alleged victims. They are understood to have come forward as a result of the publicity surrounding Leicester Police's investigation into a children's home in the county, where the 87-year-old had been a Labour MP for 30 years.

Lord Janner, who had been ruled unfit to plead due to severe dementia before his death, was facing 22 allegations of sexual offences, which dated back 50 years and involved nine alleged victims. The majority of his accusers were 16 or younger at the time.

A 'trial of the facts' had been due to take place at the Old Bailey in April. At such hearings, which are rare, juries are asked to examine evidence and decide whether the accused committed crimes.

But this hearing, too, is expected to be formally abandoned, as crown courts cannot examine allegations against someone who is dead.

"I can't think of any way in which the Crown Prosecution Service could even reinstate the case," Ronnie Mackay, a professor of criminal policy and mental health at De Montfort University in Leicester, who has led a Law Commission study into unfitness to plead, tells The Guardian. "It dies with the unfit defendant."

Following Janner's death, Liz Dux, who represents six alleged victims, told the BBC: "This is devastating news for my clients. They have waited so long to see this case come before the courts, to be denied justice at the final hurdle is deeply frustrating."

Lord Janner must appear at child abuse hearing

7 August

Lord Janner has been ordered to appear at Westminster Magistrates Court for a hearing into allegations of historical sex abuse levelled at the Labour peer.

"The chief magistrate ruled that although Lord Janner did not have to play a part in the hearing, he was legally required to attend," the BBC reports. "Andrew Smith QC, defending, called two medical witnesses to give evidence that Lord Janner would suffer 'catastrophic distress' if he was made to attend court."

The hearing, at Westminster Magistrates' Court, is the first step in criminal proceedings against Janner, after an initial decision that a criminal case was not in the public interest because of his severe Alzheimer's disease was overturned.

The proceedings will mark the first time 22 alleged offences, which include indecent assault and buggery of a male under 16, will be heard in a courtroom. The former Labour MP for Leicester has denied all the charges.

Legal proceedings against the 87-year-old have been hampered by his dementia, which his lawyers claim makes him unfit to take the stand in his own defence. Janner did not appear at court today, but sent lawyers under instruction instead.

If the peer is not of a sound enough state of mind to appear in magistrates' court or instruct his legal team, The Guardian reports prosecutors will have to invoke a rarely-used procedure to apply for the case to proceed to crown court.

The crown court will be charged with determining whether Janner – who is accused of a string of sex offences in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s – is fit to stand a full trial. If, as expected, he is found to be incapable, the case against him will be tested in a 'trial of facts'.

This form of trial, used in cases when the defendant is too ill to appear on the stand, seeks to determine whether the balance of evidence suggests the crimes did take place. Even if they are ruled to have been committed, the nature of a trial of facts means Lord Janner would not be convicted or sentenced.

Lord Janner to face trial after DPP decision overturned

29 June

Labour peer Lord Greville Janner will face a "trial of facts" into 22 allegations of child abuse dating back to the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, following an about-turn by Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

Saunders previously said the 86-year-old would not face charges, which included indecent assault and buggery of a male under 16, because he is suffering degenerative dementia and it would not be in the public interest to start criminal proceedings.

However, under the new CPS Victims' Right to Review scheme, six complainants challenged the decision and Saunders requested that an independent lawyer, Treasury counsel David Perry QC, review the case.

Perry concluded that Janner should face a "trial of facts", in which jurors hear evidence against an individual deemed too ill for a full trial and determine whether the defendant committed the crimes for which they are charged.

However, Perry said that the DPP was right to assume that Janner will inevitably be found "unfit to plead" and therefore not fit to instruct his legal team and not fit to challenge or give evidence in a trial, said the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

"Therefore the most likely outcome of a 'trial of the facts' would be an absolute discharge, which is neither punishment nor conviction," the CPS said.

Nevertheless, the case – which will begin at a hearing on 7 August – will mark the first time that allegations against Janner are aired in a courtroom, says The Guardian.

Saunders' future as DPP is also coming under "intense scrutiny", says the newspaper. Some MPs and abuse survivors are already calling for her to step down after her decision was overturned.

Saunders has said she accepts the outcome of the review. "I have always said that in my view this was an extremely difficult and borderline case because of the strong arguments on both sides," she added. "However, the review has concluded that this forum, albeit a public one, cannot substitute for the adjudication of the courts. I accept the outcome of the review and will now be bringing this prosecution to allow for that adjudication to happen."

Former DPP Lord Macdonald said Saunders' initial position had been "perfectly respectable" and that she was a "woman of complete integrity".


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