Decision not to arrest Greville Janner in 1991 – then Attorney General and DPP need to answer questionsPosted: August 8, 2014
[PLEASE NOTE: In no sense does this post imply any guilt or innocence on the part of those against who abuse allegations have been made. It is simply about questions needing to be answered so that public can have confidence that allegations of abuse involving politicians and other VIPs are treated just like those involving less prominent persons]
A report by Sean O’Neill in today’s Times alleges that in 1991 a last minute decision was made not to arrest then Labour MP Greville Janner, now Lord Janner of Braunstone, over allegations of child abuse:
Greville Janner, now Lord Janner of Braunstone, was interviewed by appointment in the company of his solicitor as part of a major investigation into the abuse of boys at homes in Leicestershire in 1991.
A number of sources with knowledge of the case have confirmed that officers had wanted to arrest the Leicester West MP, which would have given them the power to search his home and offices. Legal advice was sought on taking the rare step of arresting an MP and it is understood that the advice from senior counsel was that it was an appropriate course of action. At the last minute the planned arrest was blocked.
Arrangements were made instead for Lord Janner to attend a police station by appointment with his solicitor, Sir David Napley.
The decision-making process is being re-examined by Leicestershire police as part of Operation Enamel, which is looking into allegations against Lord Janner and others.
Kelvyn Ashby, the retired officer who was senior investigator on the original case, confirmed that he was in contact with the Operation Enamel team but declined to comment further. (Sean O’Neill, ‘Police ‘told not to arrest MP over abuse claims”, The Times, August 8th, 2014).
In May and July I blogged an extensive series of reports from the Frank Beck Trial and its aftermath. In that trial, a woman, herself alleging abuse by Beck, reported hearing an argument between a boy and Beck about visiting ‘a man called Greville Janner’ (Craig Seton, ‘Woman and two men accuse care officer of sex abuse’, The Times, September 27th, 1991). The boy apparently boasted that that he was a rent boy (Ian Katz, ”Abuse victims’ tell of their childhood torment’, The Guardian, September 27th, 1991). Beck then alleged that Janner had ‘buggered and abused’ one boy ‘for two solid years’ (‘MP Janner abuse child, says sex case man’, Press Association, October 30th, 1991; ‘Home boss says MP abused boy’, The Times, October 31st, 1991; ‘Man in sex trial accuses Greville Janner of abuse’, The Independent, October 31st, 1991). Beck said ‘I had spent two years putting right the damage that man had done to that boy and he (Janner) had the bloody audacity to complain to me because the boy had been down to London and met him accidentally. I was incensed’, that Janner had written to Beck, and the letter had been put on the boy’s social services file (”I wrote to MP over abused boy’ – children’s home chief’, Press Association, October 31st, 1991; ‘Sex trial man ‘wrote to MP over abused boy’, The Independent, November 1st, 1991; Ian Katz, ‘Home chief says he wrote to MP about abused boy’, The Guardian, November 1st, 1991).
Beck then denied in court attempting to blackmail Janner over the relationship, and that he had tried to bring Janner and the boy together in 1989, claiming instead that Janner had sent the boy £50 (‘Children’s home head denies trying to blackmail MP’, The Guardian, November 2nd, 1991). A few days later, Beck claimed that the police were hiding an affair between the boy (identified as aged 15 at the end of the affair) and Janner, about who the police had told him they knew, that the boy had stayed with Janner in the Holiday Inn in Leicester, that Beck wrote to Janner after the boy had married and become a father, thinking that Janner might feel guilty enough to help the boy find employment. Throughout, Janner’s lawyers made clear that they had advised him not to comment during the trial (‘Police covered up MP’s sex with boy, ex-children’s worker alleges’, The Guardian, November 5th, 1991). Mr A (aged 30 at the time of the trial), who was the boy at the time, appeared in court and alleged that Janner had indeed abused him from when he was 13, saying he had been fondled when he slept at Janner’s home after meeting him at the House of Commons, and had been buggered in a double bed in a hotel in Janner’s constituency and twice during a lecture tour in Scotland. Janner was also claimed to have ‘simulated sex’ five or six times during the period he knew the boy, who said in general, when asked if he liked what happend, ‘No, I did not, and I tried to stop it’. He said Janner had given him money, toys, clothing and concert tickets, and taken him to expensive restaurants. One Christmas present of a 10-speed racing bicycle had been returned by Beck after Janner had allegedly sent it to Mr A. Mr A claimed to have first met Janner when staying at a children’s home in Wigston, Leicester, when he was a volunteer for a community project that Janner had launched. He also affirmed Beck’s allegation about having met Janner often at the Holiday Inn, and that they would use the hotel swimming pool, with the agreement of the management, when it was supposed to be closed, sharing naked showers, washing each other down. Mr A said he had stolen money from Janner’s wallet as revenge, after which Janner had warned that he would stop seeing him if he did it again; there were said to have been no more sexual incidents after this. Beck claimed to have reported the relationship between the boy and Janner to Dorothy Edwards, the then Director of Social Services for Leicestershire. Mr A claimed that weekly trips had been arranged for him to the MP’s London home and to the Holiday Inn by Barbara Fitt, then Officer-in-Charge of Station Road children’s home, Wigston, Leicester, though conceded that this would have been impossible with the first visits, as Fitt had only taken over the home four months before he left it. Mr A also said that his own behaviour had deteriorated, and he had sex with both boys and girls there, and often ran away, before moving to Ratcliffe Road home (which was run by Beck). Beck had claimed that he had rescued the boy from abuse by Janner and prevented further contact; Mr A himself said that Beck had put him on the right path as a teenager, counselled him over his relationship with Janner, and stopped him seeing him. (Craig Seton, ‘Former boy in care says Labour MP sexually abused him’, The Times, November 9th, 1991; Jack O’Sullivan, ‘Man tells of sex sessions with MP while in care’, The Independent, November 9th, 1991; ‘Abuse care witness tells of sex with MP: Beck ‘rescued boy from affair with Greville Janner’, The Guardian, November 9th, 1991).
A letter was produced in court by Mr A, signed ‘Safe journey, Love Greville’, dated July 7th, 1975, when the boy was aged 13, allegedly after they had slept together; he said that he had kept other letters during their relationship. Mr A said that he had written to Janner after Beck’s arrest, affirming ‘I believe Mr Beck to be innocent and should not be treated in the way he is being treated, and Mr Janner may have been able to help him in some way.’ There was however some confusion over whether he recalled staying at Janner’s house one or two times (‘Witness in abuse trial ‘kept letters from MP”, The Independent, November 12th, 1991; ”Janner letter’ in court’, The Guardian, November 12th, 1991).
Peter Joyce QC, for the prosecution, told the jury that the claims of abuse by Janner, which he referred to as the ‘great Janner diversion’, were meaningless, and an attempt to ‘divert attention’ from Beck (‘Abuse claims against MP ‘a red herring”, The Independent, November 16th, 1991; ‘Abuse claim against MP ‘red herring’, The Guardian, November 16th, 1991). John Black, for the defence, asked the jury to decide whether Mr A knew Janner, visited Janner’s house, and so on, emphasising the importance of the letter, and asking them to consider whether Beck had really put a stop to the relationship (‘MP’s letter to boy ‘extraordinary’, The Guardian, November 19th, 1991).
Beck was found guilty of multiple charges of sexually and physically abusing boys and a girl in his care during a 13-year period (Craig Seton, ‘Children’s home head guilty of sexual abuse’, The Times, November 27th, 1991; Jack O’Sullivan, ‘Beck found guilty of sexual abuse of children in care’, The Independent, November 27th, 1991; Ian Katz, ‘Head of home guilty of abuse’, The Guardian, November 27th, 1991; Craig Seton, ‘Social worker raped teenager’, The Times, November 28th, 1991; Jack O’Sullivan, ‘Children’s homes head convicted of raping girl in care’, The Independent, November 28th, 1991; Ian Katz, ‘Head of children’s homes guilty of rape: Abuse case jury’s third night in hotel to ponder charges’, The Guardian, November 28th, 1991; ‘Five more verdicts on Beck’, The Times, November 29th, 1991).
On November 30th, 1991, the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (who was then David Gandy***), announced that they were to take no action against Janner, but also that Janner had been interviewed by Leicestershire police at his own request over the allegations made by Mr A, a file had been sent to the DPP, and that other sources had also indicated that no evidence had been found by police that would substantiate the allegations (Craig Seton, ‘DPP has no case against Janner’, The Times, November 30th, 1991). However, another report indicated that the Crown Prosecution Service were then still deciding whether launch proceedings, and would make a decision the following week (Jack O’Sullivan and Judy Jones, ‘Head of children’s homes jailed for life, five times; Inquiries ordered into Britain’s biggest sexual abuse scandal ‘involving 200 victims”, The Independent, November 30th, 1991). But no charges were brought, and Janner affirmed his innocence in the House of Commons on December 3rd, 1991:
As the House knows, Frank Beck of Leicester was convicted of a series of filthy and most serious crimes and received what must be a near record sentence—five life terms and a total of 24 years’ imprisonment. He called Paul Winston as a witness. Long ago, when Winston was a deprived youngster living in a Leicestershire children’s home, my family and I tried, unsuccessfully, to help him. Soon after, he was placed in a home run by Beck. After 15 years of Beck’s influence—including a period when Winston lodged in Beck’s private home—and after I had refused to provide Beck with references and shortly before Beck’s trial was due to begin, they combined to make disgraceful, contemptible and totally untrue allegations of criminal conduct against me.
Their motive was made blazingly clear by a letter that I received only yesterday from a former cellmate of Beck’s. I do not know the man, but he took it on himself to communicate with me. He writes that Beck told him that he—Beck —was going to frame me. According to Beck, that would take the light off him. To that end, Beck had enlisted the help of Winston. The former cellmate also wrote that the police knew that he was willing to give evidence to that effect if the Crown thought it necessary to call him. In the event, it did not, but the allegations against me were precisely as the prosecution alleged in Beck’s trial —an attempted diversion from the reality of Beck’s guilt. Both verdict and sentence showed—happily—that the attempt failed totally.
226 However, is it not horrendous that Beck and Winston were able to make such terrible and lying accusations against me in court and that the media could, and with honourable exceptions did, report these falsehoods, all under the cloak of absolute privilege? I had effectively no legal rights in the matter, and I was not allowed even to nail the lies. No wonder many people were mystified by my uncharacteristic silence —it was imposed by the cruel operation of the rules on contempt. (see the transcript from the proceedings in Hansard)
Janner was roundly defended by Keith Vaz, Labour MP for Leicester East (neighbouring Janner’s constituency of Leicester West), Gwyneth Dunwoody, then Labour MP for Crewe and Natwich, Merlyn Rees, then Labour MP for Morley and Leeds South, Patrick Cormack, then Conservative MP for Staffordshire South, Alex Carlile, then Liberal Democrat MP for Montgomery, Ivan Lawrence, then Conservative MP for Burton, and various others, as well as the then Solicitor-General, Sir Nicholas Lyell, in a debate on contempt of court. Whilst no change to the contempt laws occurred as a result, the house appeared united in accepting that the allegations against Janner were entirely false and that he had been unjustly smeared in court; there were cheers in the Commons in support of him (Alan Travis, ‘Janner cheered in Commons’, The Guardian, December 3rd, 1991). On December 7th, it was definitely confirmed that police were to take no action against Janner (‘Janner: Police confirm no action’, Press Association, December 7th, 1991).
Beck, who had received five life sentences and a further twenty-four years in prison, protested his innocence to the last, and died in prison, apparently of a heart attack, in 1994; there were some who claim that he was murdered by other prisoners, though at present I have not had chance to check the sources of these claims.
More recently, as part of Operation Enamel, Janner’s house was searched in December 2013 (Paul Peachey, ‘Police investigating child abuse search peer Greville Janner’s home’, The Independent, December 20th, 2013) and also his offices at the House of Lords (Ben Endley, ‘Child abuse detectives raid Labour peer’s office in House of Lords’, Daily Mirror, June 21st, 2014).
In order for there to be confidence that proper procedure was followed in 1991, the then Attorney General Sir Patrick Mayhew (now Baron Mayhew of Twysden) and former Acting Director of Public Prosecutions David Gandy (and his predecessor Sir Allan Green), need to answer the allegations raised in O’Neill’s piece today. The suggestion that pressure was placed not to arrest a prominent MP (as in the case of the late Cyril Smith) is most disturbing, and should not be left unanswered, whether or not new charges are brought.
***On October 3rd, 1991, Sir Allan Green resigned as DPP after having been found kerb crawling. (Francis Gibb, ‘Green’s fall from grace shocks legal profession’, The Times, October 4th, 1991). His successor, Barbara Mills, was not appointed until February 1992 (Claire Dyer, ‘Top woman to replace Sir Allan Green as DPP’, The Guardian, February 7th, 1992); in the interim period, David Gandy, Green’s deputy, served as acting DPP (‘DPP Post advertised for first time’, Press Association, November 10th, 1991).