Lord Janner inquiry: police and prosecutors ‘reluctant’ to investigate child sex abuse claims

The report found police and prosecutors were “reluctant” to fully investigate allegations of sexual abuse by Lord Janner

Children who reported being sexually abused by the late Labour grandee Lord Janner were “let down by institutional failings”, a damning inquiry into police, prosecution and social services responses to their allegations has concluded.

Leicestershire Police officers investigating decades of abuse claims against Lord Janner regularly “did not look beyond the often troubled backgrounds” of the alleged victims, who said they were abused in children’s homes in the county between the early 1960s and the late 1980s.

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The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) accused Detective Superintendent Christopher Thomas, who led Operation Dauntless, the third police investigation into Lord Janner, of being “uninterested” in the allegations, while colleagues were “quick to dismiss” some testimonies.

Lord Greville Janner leaves at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in August 2015, he died while awaiting trial.

Who was Lord Janner?

Lord Greville Janner, a Labour MP from 1970 until 1997 when he was made a peer in the House of Lords, was charged with 22 counts of child sexual abuse offences, relating to nine different boys, in 2015.

He died with dementia later that year while awaiting trial, and always denied the allegations.

Allegations against the former Leicestershire MP first emerged in the 1990s, although the Sir Richard Henriques report in 2016 found that failures by police and prosecutors meant three chances were missed to charge Lord Janner, in the 1990s and in operations Magnolia and Dauntless.

The inquiry also said Lord Janner should have been subject to scrutiny when he was nominated for a peerage by then-prime minister Tony Blair weeks after sweeping to power in 1997.

What were the findings of the report?

Professor Alexis Jay, who is chairing the wide-ranging abuse inquiry, said: “Despite numerous serious allegations against the late Lord Janner, police and prosecutors appeared reluctant to fully investigate the claims against him.

“On multiple occasions police put too little emphasis on looking for supporting evidence and shut down investigations without pursuing all outstanding inquiries.”

She also said Leicestershire County Council had a “sorry record of failures” relating to abuse at children’s homes dating back to the 1960s.

The report described the decision-making of both Mr Thomas and Roger Rock, reviewing lawyer for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), as “unsound and strategically flawed”.

Prof Jay added: “This investigation has brought up themes we are now extremely familiar with (across the whole inquiry), such as deference to powerful individuals, the barriers to reporting faced by children and the need for institutions to have clear policies and procedures setting out how to respond to allegations of child sexual abuse, regardless of the prominence of the alleged abuser.”

More than 30 complainants were involved in the inquiry, with their lawyers describing how poor children in care were on a “conveyor belt to abuse”.

They alleged being seriously sexually abused in a range of locations, including schools, a flat in London, a hotel, Lord Janner’s car and the Houses of Parliament.

Prof Alexis Jay OBE

What does the report say about the police investigation?

The report was particularly critical of Mr Thomas, the senior investigation officer in 2006.

It said: “Our overriding sense is that Det Supt Christopher Thomas was uninterested in this investigation, and his decisions to limit the inquiries undertaken appeared to be reflective of a wider failure to pursue the investigation with the rigour it deserved, rather than being motivated by a wish to protect Lord Janner or show him undue deference.”

The inquiry did not examine whether or not the allegations against Lord Janner were true.

But it found “crucial statements” in 2000’s Operation Magnolia police investigation were “brushed under the carpet”.

And it claimed police and prosecutors “appeared reluctant to progress” the subsequent Dauntless investigation.

Previously, the investigation into MPs, peers and civil servants working at 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”, following allegations which kickstarted the multimillion-pound inquiry and later resulted in the prosecution of fantasist Carl Beech.

The final IICSA report, taking in all 19 strands of the inquiry, is expected to be laid before Parliament next year.

What have the police and CPS said?

Simon Cole, the Chief Constable of Leicestershire Police, said: “On behalf of Leicestershire Police, firstly, I would like to reiterate the wholehearted apology I gave in February 2020 to any complainant whose allegations during earlier police investigations into Lord Janner were not responded to as they should have been.

“It is fair and correct to say that the allegations could and should have been investigated more thoroughly, and Lord Janner could and should have faced prosecution earlier than 2015.”

He said Operation Enamel, which eventually resulted in Lord Janner being charged, “demonstrated then, more than six years ago, a clear commitment and determination to pursue allegations of current or historic abuse against children”.

He added: “That unstinting commitment continues today. Reports of abuse are taken extremely seriously by Leicestershire Police.

“I would like to acknowledge again the bravery and candour of the complainants who have contributed to this long and challenging inquiry which must have caused significant anxiety and suffering.

“With them in mind, Leicestershire Police will study the report scrupulously and examine it for any actions or improvements.”

Meanwhile, a CPS spokesman said: “The CPS has acknowledged past failings in the way allegations made against Lord Janner were handled.

“It is remains a matter of sincere regret that opportunities were missed to put these allegations before a jury.

“We have co-operated fully with the inquiry and will carefully consider its conclusions.”

Lord Janner.

What did the lawyer representing some of the complainants say?

Richard Scorer, a specialist abuse lawyer at law firm Slater and Gordon who represented 14 complainants at the inquiry, said: “This report makes clear that there were serious, unacceptable and repeated failings by both Leicestershire Police and Leicestershire County Council in their response to allegations against Lord Janner.

“Had investigations been conducted properly, it is clear that Lord Janner could have been prosecuted in his lifetime.

“As it was, serious allegations were brushed under the carpet and concerns remain that Lord Janner was treated differently because of his status.

“Sadly the clock cannot be rolled back and the criminal trial of Lord Janner which could and should have taken place will never be possible.

“The key lesson from this appalling saga is that no matter how prominent the accused, allegations of sexual abuse should always be taken seriously, investigated thoroughly and complainants treated with dignity and respect.

“This is the lesson that all statutory agencies need to take to heart to ensure that this shocking saga never happens again.”

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