Friday, 24 April 2015

Let Justice Hold Forth in the Janner Case

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.  

1 comment:

  1. As you yourself mention, the property transaction was last year and the decision to prosecute relates to now.

    The claims for expenses are from further back, and it is lawful to sit in the HoL with dementia. However, all that has now happened is a letter has been sent requesting further leave of absence, which could have been drafted by anyone on his behalf, with him just signing.

    People with a dementia diagnosis live, on average, 8 or so years after their diagnosis. You will, I am sure, find people in your area with the diagnosis doing all sorts of ordinary things.

    But as dementia progresses, random bits of the brain stop functioning. You cannot tell which will be next. One day you can write a shopping list and the next you can't work out what that stuff you put in the toaster is called. Maybe you could still find the local shop but can't remember to light the gas when you can't fathom out the toaster and put the bread under the grill instead. Boom! "But I don't understand it," people say, "I saw him in the corner shop earlier buying a loaf of bread."

    The Mental Capacity Act, confirms that mental capacity isn't simply something you do or don't have; you have or don't have capacity to make a particular decision or type of decision.

    There's a world of difference between saying "you've been going to parliament for many years, but you haven't been there for some while since your health has got worse. Shall I do you a letter apologising and asking if you can stay away longer?" and "It is alleged that in 19xx you did such-and-such and that in 19yy you did such-and-such [continued with much detail], how do you plead?" Even "Your solicitor and accountant advise that because health is getting worse, your house should be put in your children's names now not after you die, would you like to do what they recommend?" is actually a fairly straightforward decision if it's in line with what he's otherwise done and said in the past.

    You may also care to note that according to the CPS, his dementia is now classified as "severe". That's not just a casual word. It indicates a stage. It's the point at which relatives know the person they knew has gone. The point at which they guiltily grieve knowing they're bereaved whilst still loving the shell that's left round the hollowed out brain.

    So if he were called upon to attend court, you might well find that either he'd be forceably removed or the court would be interrupted with questions about where they were and who everyone is. He might well admit to having sex with someone then it could turn out a little while later that he thought she was his wife.

    Shame on you as a disability activist with such a wide-ranging knowledge and understanding of so many forms of impairment, to write a blog entry implying that because his incurable, randomly degenerative condition hadn't reached the severe stage, it couldn't have done so now.

    The media propaganda over this case has set dementia awareness back many years. Please don't join in with it.