Friday, 11 March 2016

Greville Janner - would a prosecution have been justified?

For the past few years there has been extensive media speculation as to whether the former MP and peer Lord Greville Janner engaged in sexual activity with children, and whether the establishment ' closed ranks' to protect him from investigation. In 2013 Leicestershire police opened Operation Enamel to investigate allegations against Janner from former care home residents, and a file on their conclusions was sent to the CPS.

Towards the end of his life Janner suffered from dementia, and after much legal wrangling it was finally decided that he was unfit to stand trial. As an alternative the decision was reached that a 'trial of the facts' could take place to consider all the evidence against him, which would then be put before a jury. However, Lord Janner died in December 2015 before this could take place and all legal proceedings were terminated. His family issued a statement proclaiming that 'he is entirely innocent of any wrongdoing.'

Rumours about Janner first came to public attention during the trial of Frank Beck in 1991. Beck was warden of a Leicester children's home and had been charged with the sexual and physical abuse of children in his care over a thirteen year period. He was found guilty of many of the charges against him and was sentenced to 24 years in prison. During the trial Beck claimed that he had been framed in order to protect the real perpetrator of the crimes, allegedly Greville Janner. Beck protested his innocence up until his death in prison in 1994. Subsequently, concerns were raised about the kind of trawling operation which Leicestershire police mounted in connection with Beck, a model that would be repeated in future care-home investigations.

It has been claimed that the political establishment, in the shape of his fellow MPs, such as Labour’s Keith Vaz, Tory David Ashby and the Lib Dem MP now Lord Carlile, 'closed ranks' to protect Janner. Since he was not only an MP, but also a barrister who campaigned for justice for the victims of the Holocaust, parliamentary colleagues at this time considered it inconceivable that the allegations against him might be true. It was assumed that Beck had made the allegations in an attempt to save his own skin. The possibility that Janner could also have been guilty was something that was never entertained.

Had he been deemed well enough Janner would have faced 22 sex offence charges, alleged to have taken place from 1969 to 1988, involving nine children and young adults then cared for in children’s homes. These ranged from indecent assaults to buggery. The Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, considered that Janner should have been charged in 1991 and that there were two further missed opportunities in 2002 and 2007, where the evidential test was passed, in which there was a realistic prospect of conviction. Because of these apparent failures the CPS asked Judge Sir Richard Henriques to conduct a review into the decision making and handling by the CPS of all the allegations against Janner in the past. The Henriques report outlines the allegations against Lord Janner in some detail, and helps provide a basis to judge whether or not he was guilty of the crimes levelled against him. With the exception of Complainant 1, on the evidence available, all the accusers included in the Henriques report appear to lack sufficient credibility to warrant a successful prosecution. Indeed, they all appear to be opportunist chancers motivated by compensation claims.

In 1990, during a search of Beck's home, Leicestershire police discovered letters from Janner to a boy known as Complainant 1, who was a former resident at Beck's children's home. These letters dating from 1975 clearly showed a relationship between Janner and Complainant 1. They shared a hotel suite and Complainant 1 stayed at Janner's home when the rest of his family were abroad. In January 1991 Complainant 1 provided a statement to the police alleging sexual misconduct by Janner. Complainant 1 claimed he visited Janner on many occasions, including at hotels, camping trips, houses owned by Janner's friends and Janner's own home. Complainant 1 alleges that Janner initially engaged in cuddling and 'petting' and later moved on to more explicit sexual activity including buggery, the latter activity to which Complainant 1 claimed not to have liked. The relationship between Janner and Complainant 1 appears to have ended by late 1975, and they never came into contact again until the time of Beck's trial. Complainant 1 did however invite Janner to his wedding. Janner responded by sending Complainant 1 a £50 cheque but did not attend the wedding. It is on record that Complainant 1 stole items from Janner on a number of occasions.

Janner was interviewed by police and responded 'no comment' to all questions on the advice of his solicitor. After the Beck trial, he told the House of Commons that there was "not a shred of truth in any of the allegations”, claiming that he and his family had befriended a boy, as had many others at the time, in order to improve his welfare and life prospects but this had soured, with the net result being the false allegations made against him at the Beck trial. The prosecution called the Janner defence by Beck a ‘red herring’ and urged the jury to discount it. The evidence of Complainant 1 at Beck’s trial was considered to be inconsistent.

At that time, there was a mandatory corroboration warning given to juries and other safeguards which no longer apply. The police and CPS concluded a single complainant in an historical case in such circumstances would have had scant chance of success. However, it would appear from the Operation Enamel investigation that more could have been done by the police in 1991 to follow up the allegations made against Janner . Nevertheless, it is clear from the Henriques report that there was no high level cover up, as conspiracy theorists are claiming.

As to the question of Janner's behaviour all the evidence suggests, including additional evidence uncovered by Operation Enamel, that for a period of several months in 1975, Janner and Complainant 1 were in some kind of sexual relationship. The question that needs to be asked is whether Complainant 1 suffered any harm from this relationship. Complainant 1 alleges that he was the victim of buggery by Janner on a number of occasions. He also stated that he was not too troubled by the other forms of sexual activities alleged to have taken place during their relationship.

This was clearly an unequal relationship, Janner was 47 and Complainant 1 was 14. As a barrister and MP Janner was both educated, and a person of importance and influence. In contrast, Complainant 1 appears to have been a troubled individual, probably a petty criminal possessing only limited education and maybe no more than average intelligence. Since they appear to have had little in common, the basis of Janner's friendship can only have been sexual attraction to an adolescent youth. The basis of Complainant 1's acceptance of the relationship with Janner would likely have been because he was showered with gifts and treats by an important public figure, and was probably flattered by all the attention he received.

Complainant 1 waited for over 15 years before he made a complaint to police about Janner's behaviour. During this period Complainant 1 invited Janner to his wedding, which suggests that they remained on good terms. The relationship appears to have ended only when Frank Beck as warden prevented Janner from contacting Complainant 1 at the care home, returning a bicycle Janner had bought for Complainant 1. The evidence uncovered by Operation Enamel, and the earlier inquiries, is that Complainant 1 was willing on repeated occasions to meet up with Janner and engage in sexual activities, albeit reluctantly with regard to the buggery claims. There is no evidence that Janner used force or the threat of violence or blackmail at any time against Complainant 1. Thus it must be concluded that Complainant 1 consented to all the sexual relations that took place with Janner.

In 1975 all homosexual activities with a male under the age of 21 were illegal, although the current age is now 16. However, at that time all of the sexual activities alleged to have taken place between Janner and Complainant 1, with the exception of buggery, would have been legal with a person aged over 14 had they been between persons of the opposite sex, although the current legal age for such activities is now 16. This blog believes that in a civilised society teenagers should have the right to their own sexual autonomy without harassment, intimidation or interference by the state in this private and intimate activity, unless force, violence or blackmail have occurred or been threatened. It also believes that offences should be reported to the police within one week of occurring, or until the accuser reaches the age of 18. It is clear that these requirements have not been met in this case, and since there is no evidence that Complainant 1 suffered any harm from his relationship with Janner, it must be concluded that there would appear to be no justification in bringing Janner to trial over what was essentially a private and consensual relationship, albeit an unequal one. Addendum

Since writing the above some new facts have come to light. It would appear that Complainant 1 has convictions for sexual offences against 'underage boys', and was found to have made a false allegation against the head of his care home. In addition, Lord Janner's daughter has given several TV interviews in which she claims that it would have been impossible for her father to have engaged in any kind of sexual activity with Complainant 1. She claims that Complainant 1 was befriended by her father and treated as one of the family, which contradicts Complainant 1's claim that his visits to the Janner home only took place when the rest of the family were away.

These new revelations must cast some considerable doubt as to whether there was any kind of sexual relation between Janner and Complainant 1. This post may have fallen into the mindset of the child abuse industry that any relationship between an adult and a young teenager is likely to be motivated by a sexual interest. At the time when these offences were alleged to have taken place, platonic caring and nurturing relationships between adults and children were commonplace, and nobody regarded this as anything unusual. It was a time when adults were implicitly trusted, and before the poisonous campaign of the NSPCC and others to destroy these kind of positive and caring adult-young person relationships.

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