A “culture of deference” may have obstructed investigations into the late Lord Janner, a barrister representing more than a dozen of his alleged victims has told the child sexual abuse inquiry.
Addressing the opening session of an inquiry into how the authorities dealt with multiple complaints about the former Labour MP and peer, the barrister Nick Stanage regretted that for his clients, “justice delayed” had been “justice denied”.
The independent inquiry into child sexual abuse (IICSA) is for the next three weeks examining whether Janner’s “public prominence” led to failures by institutions including Leicestershire police, the CPS, Leicestershire county council and the Labour party.
Greville Janner QC represented Leicester West for Labour between 1970 and 1997. He was later given a peerage, becoming Lord Janner of Braunstone.
At the time of his death in December 2015, at the age of 87, he was facing 22 charges of child sexual abuse, relating to nine different boys, but had been deemed to be too ill to stand trial. He had consistently denied the allegations.
In his absence, a trial of the facts was scheduled but it was cancelled when he died. A report the following year by the retired judge Sir Richard Henriques concluded that the Crown Prosecution Service had missed three opportunities to prosecute Janner for indecent assault and, as it then was, buggery.
Stanage said his clients were grateful that the inquiry was going ahead despite attacks on it by Janner’s son, Daniel Janner QC, who had “vilified” the inquiry “day after day”.
Victims of abuse, he said, were often “broken by their experiences”. What they wanted to know was: was any “improper pressure applied to undermine any line of [police] inquiry?”
IICSA’s earlier investigations into allegations of sexual abuse at Westminster had found evidence of deference to the powerful, Stanage said. “Did the same culture of deference prevent the authorities in this case acting fairly in their investigations of Lord Janner?”
William Chapman, a barrister representing 13 complainants, told the inquiry that while Lord Janner’s career had gone on to success, his clients’ lives had “descended into alcoholism, drug abuse, criminality and mental illness”. It had been a “macabre spectacle”.
Chapman added: “Was this explicit corruption by some police officers, as some have said, or was it [mistaken] groupthink?”
Edward Brown QC, representing the Crown Prosecution Service, said that it was denied that “the CPS or any individual in the CPS acted improperly”. The evidence, he added, “will show that they acted honestly and to the best of their ability”.
Alex Verdan QC, for Leicestershire county council, said the authority felt “profound regret for any abuse suffered by children in its care”.
The county council was aware at the time, Verdan confirmed, of Greville Janner’s “association” with a child. Concerns had been raised by staff but they were not acted upon.
Danny Friedman QC, representing Janner’s family, read out a statement by his youngest daughter, Laura.
It said: “We have listened carefully to the accusations and believe totally in our father’s innocence. We believe that Dad became a target because of his determination to defend those who were suffering.”
Lord Janner, she added, was “unconventional” in the way he helped people and he was “perhaps naive in the way in which his kindness could be exploited”. He was guided by his Jewish upbringing and, having seen the misery of Bergen Belsen concentration camp, had been committed to making a “better world”.
Friedman added that he believed Lord Janner had been “framed”.
Earlier, Brian Altman QC, counsel to the inquiry, stressed that the hearings would not constitute a “proxy trial” of Lord Janner but examine how the authorities had responded to allegations of child sex abuse.
The hearing continues.