Sunday, December 20, 2015

Lord Janner: We'll never know

A cynic’s reaction to the news Greville Janner is dead was to say “So, he really was ill.” Less than three weeks ago, a judge at the Old Bailey upheld a decision by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, that there was no point in dragging the Labour peer in front of a jury to answer 22 historic charges of sexual abuse of boys when they had evidence from doctors that his dementia was so advanced that the old man could hardly utter a coherent sentence, let alone understand what he was accused of having done.

Saunders came in for some heavy criticism in April when she decided that all that Lord Janner’s alleged victims would get would be a “trial of facts” in which a jury would hear from the prosecution and a defence lawyer, but not from the defendant, and there would be no verdict or sentence.

Years ago, there was a famous case in which a businessman, Ernest Saunders, former chief executive of Guinness, had been sentenced to five years in prison for a share-price scam, but had his sentence cut in half when he shuffled pathetically into court and his lawyers explained that he was suffering from dementia. Once out of prison, his recovery was something of a medical miracle. Cynics wondered if Janner’s dementia, which had not prevented him from delivering an articulate speech on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in February 2013, would clear up suddenly when the threat of prison was lifted. His death vindicates the doctors who diagnosed his mental state.  (more...)

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