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Lord Janner inquiry: Child sexual abuse claims ‘swept under the carpet’

·4 min read
Lord Janner has died aged 87 (Jonathan Brady/PA Wire)
Lord Janner has died aged 87 (Jonathan Brady/PA Wire)

Police investigations into alleged child sexual abuse by Labour peer Lord Greville Janner were prematurely shutdown with key statements deliberately withheld from prosecutors, an inquiry has found.

The late politician and QC faced a series of criminal probes into the 1990s and 2000s but was not charged with any offences until 2015, just months before he died without facing a trial.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) has found a “series of failings” by Leicestershire Police, as Janner was treated differently due to his high status and abuse allegations were “swept under the carpet”.

“Despite numerous serious allegations against the late Lord Janner, police and prosecutors appeared reluctant to fully investigate the claims against him”, said inquiry chair Professor Alexis Jay.

“On multiple occasions police put too little emphasis on looking for supporting evidence and shut down investigations without pursuing all outstanding enquiries.”

She said a senior police officer had been “uninterested” in pursuing allegations against the peer, while Leicestershire County Council is responsible for “a sorry record of failures” to protect children in care in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.

Professor Jay also noted: “A number of council staff had concerns about Lord Janner’s association with a particular child in residential care, and further enquiries should have been carried out.”

Richard Scorer, a specialist abuse lawyer at Slater & Gordon who represents 14 complainants against Lord Janner, said the report lays bare that Janner “could have been prosecuted in his lifetime”.

“As it was, serious allegations were brushed under the carpet and concerns remain that Lord Janner was treated differently because of his status.

Sadly the clock cannot be rolled back, and the criminal trial of Lord Janner which could and should have taken place will never be possible.

“The key lesson from this appalling saga is that no matter how prominent the accused, allegations of sexual abuse should always be taken seriously, investigated thoroughly and complainants treated with dignity and respect. This is the lesson that all statutory agencies need to take to heart to ensure that this shocking saga never happens again”.

Lord Janner was first accused of abuse by a former care home resident during Leicestershire Police’s Operation Magnolia, set up in February 2000.

Lord Janner died in 2015 having been charged with historic child sexual abuse, which he denied (Peter Jordan/PA) (PA Archive)
Lord Janner died in 2015 having been charged with historic child sexual abuse, which he denied (Peter Jordan/PA) (PA Archive)

“The investigation into those allegations was insufficient and seemingly involved a deliberate decision by Leicestershire Police to withhold key witness statements from consideration by the CPS”, the inquiry report found.

Police carried out “general inquiries” into the allegations and a second accuser came forward in 2001. However, police officers – who did not question the peer - “demonstrated a lack of will to investigate the allegations properly”.

In a meeting with a CPS reviewing lawyer in November 2001, the claims against Janner were not raised by Magnolia detectives, and the witness statements were withheld from the CPS.

Acting Detective Inspector Kevin Yates told the inquiry he “thought there may have been a positive instruction not to mention Lord Janner to the CPS”.

“There is no evidence that the police were unduly influenced or placed under improper pressure not to pursue the Lord Janner allegations”, the report concluded. “The outcome, however, was nonetheless the same as if they had been. The crucial statements ….were ‘brushed under the carpet’.”

The statements re-emerged from a locked drawer in 2006, when detectives looked into allegations that a group of men including Lord Janner had sexually abused a boy, in an investigation codenamed Dauntless.

Lord Janner was not arrested or questioned and was “treated differently from a ‘man on the street’”, the inquiry found, before prosecutors ultimately dropped the investigation in an “unsound and strategically flawed” decision.

Professor Jay praised the efforts of junior detectives who wanted to investigate further, but said they were thwarted by a “malaise” from more senior figures.

The peer, a Labour MP between 1970 and 1997, a qualified barrister, and former president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, was charged in 2015 with 22 counts of alleged child sexual abuse against nine people, dating back to the mid-1960s. A review of previous allegations had been initiated in 2012, and fresh claims against the peer then came to light.

However, due to the onset of dementia, Janner was deemed unfit to plead in court, and he died aged 87 in December 2015, before a trial of the facts could take place.

Janner’s family have consistently denied the allegations against the peer.

In her report, Professor Jay decided not to make recommendations as the institutions involved have undergone significant change since the failed investigations into Janner.

But she added that the inquiry had heard evidence of “deference to powerful individuals or to superiors, the barriers to reporting faced by children – particularly those in care - and the need for institutions to have clear policies and procedures setting out how to respond to allegations of child sexual abuse, regardless of the prominence of the alleged abuser.”

At the start of the inquiry hearings, Leicestershire Police said: “The chief constable would like to reiterate his wholehearted apology on behalf of Leicestershire Police to any complainant whose allegations during earlier police investigations were not responded to as they should have been by police and other institutions.”

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Care home children let down by police and state, Janner abuse inquiry finds

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