Inquiry into Lord Janner ‘child abuse’ response to go ahead, despite concerns

The inquiry into state responses to allegations of child abuse against the late Lord Janner will go ahead as planned, despite some evidence being submitted behind closed doors.

Professor Alexis Jay, chairwoman of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), has ruled the strand of the long-running investigation should go ahead, as planned, from October.

She said: “It is my hope and intention that as much material as possible will be put into the public domain.

“The boundaries between the open and closed stages of the investigation will only become finalised once further work is done, but it may be that more can be heard in public than currently appears to be the case.”

It follows a hearing last month during which a complainant against Lord Janner, who died in 2015 before the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decided it was not in the public interest to prosecute him, asked the inquiry to give his evidence anonymously.

Lead counsel to the inquiry, Brian Altman QC, previously said that if the investigation were to continue, the complainant’s decision to maintain full anonymity would mean that much, possibly all, of the hearings would have to take place in closed session.

Lord Janner’s family said said they did not want closed hearings, with their lawyer Daniel Friedman QC adding: “Delay has been agonising for this family and it has not served the public interest. It is time to stop.”

Prof Jay, handing down her ruling on Thursday, said the Lord Janner strand of the investigation was “not an investigation into Lord Janner’s guilt or innocence”.

She added: “It is not a proxy criminal or civil trial … it is an investigation into institutions, and into how they responded to the allegations made against Lord Janner.”

The inquiry will examine whether those institutions such as the police and senior politicians gave Lord Janner preferential treatment amid claims of abuse, and if so why.

Responding to the ruling, Lord Janner’s son, Daniel Janner QC (pictured), described the strand as “a huge mistake and totally misconceived”.

He added: “It was founded on the grotesque and unfair assumption of guilt of a dead man.

“It will fail genuine victims, the falsely accused and all those who rely on British justice.

“It will deny us the ability to cross-examine accusers. We will be unable to test the evidence.

“Our father cannot answer back from his grave.

“This unfairness is heightened since much of the strand will take place behind closed doors.

“This offends the principle of transparency lying at the heart of the Inquiry’s remit.”

Last week the inquiry found the political establishment spent decades turning “a blind eye” to allegations of child sexual abuse, with high-profile politicians protected from police action as whips sought to avoid “gossip and scandal” which would damage the parties, a scathing report has found.

The strand investigating MPs, peers and civil servants working in Westminster found political institutions “significantly failed in their responses to allegations of child sexual abuse”.

But it said there was no evidence of a “Westminster paedophile ring” – allegations in the House of Commons in 2012 which kick-started the multi-million-pound inquiry.

It followed claims by fantasist Carl Beech, who is currently serving an 18-year prison term for 12 counts of perverting the course of justice and one count of fraud.

Responding to the ruling, Kim Harrison, a specialist abuse lawyer at Slater and Gordon representing 14 of Lord Janner’s alleged victims, said: “This comes as a tremendous relief to myself and my clients who have waited five long years to have their voices heard.

“Protecting their anonymity must obviously be paramount but the inquiry can still do that and achieve its aims by hearing the relevant parts of evidence in private and the rest in public.

“Discontinuing this hearing would not only have damaged the credibility of the inquiry, but also sent a harmful message to survivors who already find it difficult enough to speak up about their abuse.”

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2020, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Dominic Lipinski / PA Wire.