Lord Janner due in court over sex abuse charges

Lord Janner: His legal team may seek judicial review of decision. Picture: PA
Lord Janner: His legal team may seek judicial review of decision. Picture: PA
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Lawyers for Lord Janner yesterday lost a High Court bid to prevent him having to attend court today to face child sex abuse charges.

The former Labour peer and MP was ordered to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London in relation to 22 charges spanning a period from the 1960s to the 1980s.

His legal team said the 87-year-old has dementia and forcing him to attend court in person would be unlawful and violates his human rights.

They wanted today’s hearing halted to give him time to seek a judicial review of the decision that he must attend.

Lady Justice Rafferty, sitting with Mr Justice Irwin, said the court had “unhesitatingly concluded” the balance between the human rights of Lord Janner and “the public interest in public justice” came down in favour of his attendance in court for the brief period required by the law.

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Lord Janner’s lawyers are considering whether to make an application to a Court of Appeal judge. Paul Ozin, appearing for Lord Janner, had asked the High Court to grant an order to stop a warrant being issued for the peer’s arrest if he failed to attend today. That would give his legal team time to apply for the judicial review.

Mr Ozin said the decision of senior district judge Howard Riddle, chief magistrate at Westminster, to require Lord Janner’s attendance was “irrational and perverse” and threatened to rob the peer of his dignity.

The unchallenged medical evidence was that Lord Janner was suffering from such severe dementia because of Alzheimer’s disease that he would be unfit to plead or attend any trial. Having to attend court was likely to lead to a “catastrophic reaction” and “a perfect storm” of extreme distress, breaching his rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Mr Ozin added: “It is barbaric, inhuman and uncivilised to expose a very vulnerable person to the experience I have alluded to, particularly when it is wholly unnecessary and serves no logical purpose.”

He argued there was an alternative method – a voluntary bill of indictment – to bring the peer to trial without him having to appear in person which would be “both medically undesirable and potentially dangerous, leading to injury”.

The case is likely to be sent to a crown court, which will decide whether Janner is fit for trial.

Earlier this year, Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders decided not to bring charges because of Janner’s health – but this was overturned after an appeal by the alleged victims.

If a crown court judge decides the former Labour MP for Leicester is fit to plead, a full trial may take place. If not, there will be a trial of the facts, where a jury will decide only if he committed abuse, with no finding of guilt and no conviction.