This Lord Janner affair is fast becoming a travesty of the justice system.
Last week I defended the position of people who lacked mental capacity being forced to stand trial. Indeed I included Lord Janner in this category. Nothing has occurred to change my mind in his area; I still firmly believe that in order to answer to criminal charges in a court of law the defendant must have mental capacity.
It is alleged that Janner, between 1969 and 1988, carried out at least 22 sex offences against children. Despite having strong evidence against the peer, the Crown Prosecution Service has made a ruling not to pursue the case any further. Their decision based on medical evidence pointing to Janner’s mental incapacity due to Alzheimer’s disease. The medical argument being that the dementia he was suffering from would stop him understanding any charges laid against him or questions put to him.
Ever since the CPS decision not to charge Lord Janner a number of disturbing incidents have been brought to the public’s attention. It would appear that despite his diagnosis of Alzheimer’s in 2009 that Janner has been claiming expenses from the House of Lords. More surprisingly in April this year he had the capacity to sign a letter declaring his wish to remain in the Lords.
More disturbing is the story that Lord Janner signed over the deeds to a £2 m property to his children last year. This transaction was carried out during the height of the police investigations into child sex offences by Janner.
Liz Dux, a solicitor from Slater and Gordon representing several of the peer’s alleged victims, said: “They will be asking how a man who lacks the mental capacity to stand trial has sufficient capacity to give valid instructions to transfer his assets.
“It will be of great concern to them to see what may be their last opportunity to achieve any sort of justice deliberately obstructed.
“The court would be asked to look at any transactions undertaken in recent months which could constitute efforts to defraud potential creditors.”
As I stated at the beginning of this piece. I still stand by my views on people without mental capacity not being forced to face a trial in which they cannot participate. However, Janner, his family and his lawyer’s appear to be complicit in actions that are highly irregular, if not unlawful. A man who has the protection of the law to stop the state prosecuting him on the grounds of incapacity should not at the same time be able to carry out legal transactions that call for mental capacity.
Janner should not be able to have it both ways. He is either incapable on capacity grounds to face criminal charges, in which case the same capacity tests must apply when it comes to all other legal decisions made in his name.
For the sake of justice I hope that these infringements are dealt with in the correct manner; and that Janner, if he lacks capacity, is not allowed to flout the law in the future.