The DPP was right not to prosecute Janner. But we need to know who made the decsion not to prosecute years ago and why

18 Apr 2015 at 16:16

As there is such a lot of misinformation about the Lord Janner case whizzing about on social media I thought it might be helpful to give a brief guide as to what has happened. The DPP, Alison Saunders, has played this one by the book.

The first test is on the available evidence is there a realistic chance of a conviction. The answer to that was yes. But before everyone starts pointing fingers and making assumptions remember that everyone who appears in a criminal court has had to have passed this test. And until conviction they are still just allegations as they have not been proved.

The second test is it in the public interest to prosecute. The DPP said no. Four highly qualified doctors, two from the CPS and two from the defence were unanimous that Janner was not fit to stand trial. Any thought of corruption collusion and cover up just borders on the bonkers. It is an important principle of law that there must be equality of arms and there must be a fair trial. If a person cannot understand what is going on, nor give instructions to his lawyers no judge would allow a trial to get off the ground. So the decision by the DPP is both sound in law and common sense.

As part of the public interest decision she would have to consider the other option, should she take this to trial and go through the fitness to plead procedures. Before trial a defendant has to be arraigned. This means that they have to plead guilty or not guilty. But before they can do that they will have to have been advised on the strength of the evidence. If they can’t understand what on earth is going on they are unable to make a valid plea. Whether a person is fit to plead is a matter for the judge based on medical evidence and legal argument. If the judge rules in favour a jury is sworn and they hear the evidence and make a decision by weighing up the evidence. If they are agreed that what the prosecution says happened did happen then the judge decides on a Mental Health Act disposal which very often means, depending on the seriousness, a spell in a secure hospital until it is safe enough for him to be released.

What the DPP had to consider is whether Janner was likely to commit further offences. Clearly not. And for serious dementia any form of Mental Health Act disposal doesn’t fly.

Fitness to plead procedure is not uncommon, I am prosecuting a couple at the moment. They are due process. They protect the public and the patient. They are fair. The DPP decision not to prosecute is not fitness to plead procedure just a decision not to prosecute. And the DPP got it right.
However, their should be an enquiry by a judge as to what made the CPS decide not to prosecute all those years ago. If there was enough evidence to give a realistic chance of prosecution now, why not then? Who took the decision and on what basis and who was consulted. And why wasn’t the then DPP Ken MacDonald shown the papers?

The Cyril Smith and Saville cover ups cast an indelible stain on British justice. They may be the tip of an iceberg. Painful as it will be, for the sake of confidence in our system and to try and right the wrongs of those whose lives have been wrecked because of abuse we really must have some answers no matter how inconvenient or damaging they might be.

As for Janner he has not been convicted of anything. Talk of stripping him of his peerage, even if we could, is the ‘no smoke without fire’ horror that has left lives in ruins. Something has gone horribly wrong here and we need the answers. There will be a paper trail.