Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Janner hearings will be awful but the case must proceed

There is no satisfaction to be taken from the messy and wholly distressing set of proceedings that now surround the elderly Labour peer Lord Janner. Facing 22 charges of historic child sex abuse, there is widespread and public discussion as to his mental state, with his every movement scrutinised, his every recent utterance pored over for evidence of mental capacity.

At the same time, any of his accusers with genuine complaint will also have legitimate frustrations. Frustrations heightened today by the initial failure of the peer to turn up for his first appearance in what could be a lengthy court process. Following the dismissal of an appeal from his lawyers, he was compelled to appear at Westminster magistrates court. He did not, with lawyers arguing that he should be allowed to appear via a video link from his home, an approach more appropriate to an 87-year-old man suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. The judge disagreed, threatening to arrest him. In the afternoon, Lord Janner – whose relatives protest his innocence – appeared briefly and was committed to face further scrutiny at the crown court.

We have reached that stage in which none of the alternatives are palatable. The sight of a confused old man apparently bewildered by proceedings will offend public sensibilities. There will be questions about the legitimacy of a full trial – if such a stage is reached – that may require an old man to recall events with clarity sufficient to allow for a coherent defence. And yet the die is cast.  (more...)

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