LORD Janner has appeared in court in person for the first time over 22 historic child sex abuse charges.
The peer’s attendance at Westminster Magistrates’ Court yesterday comes after numerous attempts by his defence lawyers – three court hearings over a week – to avoid him turning up.
Dressed in a soiled bottle green cardigan, blue t-shirt and navy trousers, and using a walking stick the peer – who suffers from dementia – entered the courtroom saying: “Oooh, this is wonderful.”
He sat at a desk near the entrance used for vulnerable witnesses and looked around the room before being asked if he was Lord Janner.
He replied: “Yes.”
He was released on unconditional bail with the next hearing to be held at Southwark Crown Court on September 1.
Janner was forced to attend the hearing after two senior judges ruled that an appearance by the 87-year-old former Labour peer and MP must take place because of “the obvious and strong public interest in ensuring those summoned to court attend when required”.
Earlier yesterday, Janner’s lawyer Paul Ozin argued he should be allowed to appear via video link at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, from his residence.
But after District Judge Emma Arbuthnot expressed impatience with the legal wrangling over the issue, Mr Ozin told the court: “I can confirm that Lord Janner will attend this court at two o’clock this afternoon.”
In response, the judge said that if the hearing became too much for Janner, she would “immediately abort” and continue in his absence. His legal team had been insisting he was too ill to attend in person because of his advanced dementia.
As the defence tried to propose alternative ways of Janner appearing, the judge stood firm.
Judge Arbuthnot said: “Even if I have to have him arrested, I am going to resolve this matter today.
“I’m warning you that as time progresses I’m going to turn to the prosecution and say, ‘Let’s get a warrant to have him arrested’. Let’s not waste time.”
She added that Janner’s appearance “must be done in a humane way”.
Janner’s lawyers on Thursday lost a High Court bid to prevent him having to attend.
Two senior judges said the public interest outweighed any personal distress that might be caused to Janner, who faces 22 child abuse charges spanning from the 1960s to the 1980s.
The peer, who was in court for 59 seconds, was escorted into the courtroom by a minder and a woman believed to be his daughter.
Calling him “daddy”, she said: “We’re going to go home and have an ice cream.”
All three of them then left the courtroom through the internal exit, avoiding the public section of the building.