My Lords, we all welcome the IICSA inquiry. Unfortunately, an early start was hampered by chairmanship difficulties, and a seamless process under the Inquires Act has become mired in controversy with the disbandment of panels, the removal of chairmen, a churn in staff and questions over remit.
The original remit was to consider, “whether and to what extent public bodies and other institutions have taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sex abuse and seek to address public concern over failings exposed by appalling cases of organised and persistent child sexual abuse”. All very laudable. However, I have a fundamental objection to the inquiry’s management. It gives credence to hearsay and allows for the presumption of guilt in the court of public opinion. It should confine itself to considering only cases where guilt has been established in a court. Without due process the door is open to huge injustice and the trashing of reputations, and is an affront to every tenet of natural justice I have nurtured over a lifetime.
Today I intend to examine one case where justice has been stretched to breaking point—that of Greville Janner, a former MP. This is the case of a man with an exemplary record of public service who, during the trial of a children’s home manager and convicted paedophile—a man with a grudge against the MP—was accused of assaulting a child. The grudge led to an accusation against Janner, but following an investigation, Janner was neither arrested nor charged. Decades later he was again investigated, without being interviewed, and again not arrested. To cap it all, following legitimate public outcry over other such cases, he was then singled out in his dying days as a person who would have been prosecuted if he had not been suffering from dementia.
To understand the background to the Janner case we have to return over 70 years, to 1947, when the multilingual and brilliant young man Janner, aged 17 and Jewish, was sent to post-war Germany to help in investigating war crimes and to work in the kinderheim at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. His role was the rehabilitation and mentoring of gravely damaged child survivors of the Holocaust. This experience would haunt Janner over a lifetime. It determined his politics and accounts for his attitude throughout his life to underprivileged children from broken homes. Those who find such experiences difficult to comprehend should read his biography—because it is all there.
As Janner’s godson Nigel Cohen messaged the family on Janner’s death,
“He always tried to help children who needed help. I discussed with him a number of times the risks he exposed himself to by helping people he hardly knew. He always replied simply, they need my help. He refused to be bowed by what others might say”.
The fact is that Janner was an easy target for underprivileged accusers—many of whom had a long history of criminal activity and repeat offending reaching well back into their early years. As I reflect, I almost perceive in Janner a gentle naivety.
One such person was a young lad I will call Anthony, who, in the 1970s, lived in a Leicester children’s home run by a man called Beck. In 1991, while being prosecuted for the rape of children in his care, Beck interrupted his own trial by, during proceedings, abruptly accusing Janner of child abuse. Until then, no one had ever accused Janner of sexual misconduct. The accusation came out of the blue and was soon followed by Anthony claiming to be a victim. When a former High Court judge, Henriques, wrote the report that partly led to IICSA, it is noticeable that he failed to reveal that Anthony had a history of lying and sex offending.
Of course, the Henriques report was one in a series of inquiries and reports into Janner, all of which I have read. Uncharacteristically for Henriques, its flaw was its total failure to understand the significance of the complainants’ backgrounds, criminal pasts and motivations in seeking financial compensation. It is worth noting that not one of the listed complainants, almost all of whom were party to civil actions for damages, received compensation from the Janner estate. Indeed, they have withdrawn their actions on legal advice, perhaps believing that IICSA’s findings can rescue their claims. We do not know the number of people making claims under discredited sexual offences compensation arrangements, a scheme paying out on the balance of probabilities, often without a court decision. That scheme, which cost the taxpayer more than £40 million last year, is institutionally unworldly, in my view. Even the infamous “Nick”, of Ted Heath fame, managed to take the scheme for a ride. Furthermore, it refuses detailed scrutiny under FOIs. Following the “Nick” trial, I believe that it should be reviewed.
Any detailed study of the Janner case inevitably takes us back to the inquiries and what has gone wrong in the justice system. The Beck and Anthony interventions led to the police investigations. It is obvious that the police failed in their task. They failed to interview individuals who were critical to the findings the CPS needed in determining whether action should be brought against Janner. Equally, those of us who question the validity of accusations believe that more detailed inquiries would have exposed the calculated dishonesty at the heart of claims—a fact already established adequately. We do not need an IICSA inquiry to tell us what we already know. I believe that if real evidence had been found, the time to charge Janner was in 1991; but of course, it was not found. To end up here 20 years later, and over 40 years after the alleged events, is a travesty of justice, but that is what has happened.
Operation Enamel was set up in 2014, drawing on the memory of accusers—compensation in mind—from 40 years previously. It does not surprise me that Leicestershire Police refused my FOI application for access to this damning report, as it would have exposed its incompetence. As Henriques wisely put it in paragraph 2.60 of his report:
“The Chief Crown Prosecutor understandably accepts that it is impossible to recollect details of events some twenty four years ago”.
In paragraph 2.70, in relation to accuracy over the timing of a meeting, he states:
“There are any number of possible innocent explanations not least the passage of time”.
If it is difficult to recollect events from 24 years ago, how credible are recollections made after 40 years?
Two factors clearly influenced the police investigation. First, while in prison, Beck had shared a cell with a man called Norman Newall. Beck had confided in Newall. They were close, having known each other for years. In June 1991, Newall revealed in a statement to police that Beck had made a comprehensive confession to him, admitting committing buggery with boys and girls, having sex with numerous children and giving children a good thumping. Also, I have seen a statement that he was going to plead “not guilty” and drag all the top people in. He got one of the kids to say that Greville Janner had taken him to Scotland and buggered him. When asked by Beck’s cell mate if it was true, Beck had replied that it was not but would throw the light off him. He had gone on to say that he was sure the kid would stand up, and he had three newspapers on his side. The kid did stand up; it is Anthony who stands at the heart of this case.
What is interesting about this admission is that Henriques qualifies the Newall statement, stating:
“I have also noted an antecedent history of formidable proportions”.
That was not said in the case of Anthony, a man with an equal record. Nevertheless, I believe that Newall’s statement, and those of others, was key to non-prosecution in 1991. The CPS clearly feared that Newall’s statement would collapse a trial.
Another factor was Anthony’s wider record, which Henriques either ignored or failed to have in mind. We do not know whether a devastating social services report on Anthony was ever made available to the police, or even Henriques. That report may well have influenced both the police and the CPS. Another consideration may have been the police’s knowledge of Anthony’s criminal background. We now know that Anthony was convicted on three separate counts of sexual assault, serving four years in prison. His allegations of sexual assault in Scotland were dismissed as false and his accusations of sexual activity with social worker Barbara Fitt, a woman with a 16-year unblemished record, were dismissed as fantasy.
He is also reported as having forced a six year-old child into oral sex, having exposed himself and masturbated in front of a minor—I am sorry to use these terms but they have to come out—and theft. This man is described as a core participant, and therefore potentially a witness before the inquiry. That is an outrage. Can I be assured that if the Janner strand is foolishly allowed to remain in the inquiry, Members will see all the reports? I must emphasise that there is no mention of any complaint against Janner in the social service record of any complainant, despite many complaints against Beck and others.
So, where do we stand now? I believe that the Janner strand—the lead strand in the IICSA inquiry—is an affront to justice. I want to know why IICSA insists on maintaining that strand. We need to know why. The strand is likely to make findings of fact on contested allegations that Janner cannot challenge from the grave. That is at the heart of my objection. The strand is based on an assumption of being guilty until proven innocent—something rejected by the Janner family. I am concerned that my letters to IICSA on these matters are being replied to by not its chairman but its solicitor, who was not in place when the Janner strand was announced. The chairman is accountable, not the lawyers. I am concerned that little account is being taken of memory loss. I believe that IICSA has no understanding whatsoever of the reputational damage to the Janner family in the court of public opinion if, behind the cloak of anonymity, unsubstantiated and unchallenged claims are made in open hearings.
I am concerned that both the Henriques and Enamel reports, while questioning the veracity of statements supportive of Janner, give unquestioned credence to those of the accusers. I am not sure there is any understanding of Janner’s mentoring relationships with deprived children, arising out of his post-war experience. In Parliament, we knew of it; others would never understand it. It was so open to exploitation. I am concerned about how the statutory compensation scheme is attracting false accusations. I am not convinced that IICSA’s panel is aware of the dangers of anti-Semitism when, on the back of unchallenged accusations, it effectively put a leading member of the Jewish community on trial. Be of no doubt: it is the court of public opinion that matters here. I can tell the House that I, a gentile, would never sit on such a panel in any circumstances—not that I would ever be asked—if only because its worthy remit is now tainted by the stench of injustice. I am so sorry to have to use such a word.