Greville Janner and Margaret Moran – trial of facts more likely for expenses fiddling than child abuse?

In 2012, the former Labour MP for Luton South Margaret Moran faced 21 charges of false accounting and forgery of parliamentary expenses involving sums of over £60 000. However, following a psychiatrist’s report, Moran was found to be suffering from a depressive illness, with extreme anxiety and agitation, and as such was unfit to stand trial. Nonetheless, a trial went ahead in her absence (a so-called ‘trial of the facts’) and it was found that she did indeed falsely claim more than £53 000. Moran received a two-year order placing her under the supervision of a council mental health social worker, as well as being treated for the improvement of her medical condition. At the time, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and Head of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) was Keir Starmer, now the Labour MP for Holborn and St Pancras after being elected in May 2015.

Fast-forward to two-and-a-half years after the trial of the facts for Moran, and as is now well-known, the new DPP, Alison Saunders made the decision not to charge Labour peer Lord Janner, formerly Greville Janner, MP for Leicester West from 1970 to 1997, with 22 offences involving the sexual abuse of children, between 1969 and 1988, on the grounds of his suffering from dementia. Even the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, argued that Janner should face a ‘trial of the facts’, but Saunders dismissed this on the grounds that Janner was no longer an ongoing risk to the public (not something which Janner himself would have viewed as an obstacle to prosecuting Nazi war criminals with dementia, as witnessed by his statements here and here). Starmer defended his successor Saunders’ decision, saying that ‘we should inhibit our comments on the case’.

There have been major questions asked about the reliability of the diagnosis of dementia against Janner, in light of clear evidence of much significant activity at the House of Lords and elsewhere following the initial diagnosis (see for example this report – as Gojam has pointed out on The Needle Blog, there is a great irony in Janner being deemed too ill to face justice but well enough to legislate). But even if one accepts that Janner is not fit to appear in court, do the seriousness of the charges (not to mention the suggestion that Janner may have been part of a wider network, together with the former Speaker of the House of Commons George Thomas aka Lord Tonypandy) not make the case for a trial of the facts imperative? Janner may not be an ongoing risk to the public, but neither was Moran, who was no longer an MP at the time she faced charges.

I do not want to make light of the issue of MPs fiddling parliamentary expenses, though do think that as financial scandals go, this was quite small in terms of the sums involved, especially relative to government spending. Furthermore, I do not share public cynicism about the very profession of being a Member of Parliament, and think our MPs should be paid more, commensurate with the salaries they might receive in the private sector, and hopefully then few would want to fiddle expenses.

The spectacle of a clearly distraught and destroyed (and visibly aged) Moran, following the court ruling, was something I found upsetting at the time. This has nothing to do with her gender; the vilification and imprisonment of Denis McShane was no less pretty, nor was the SNP-driven hate campaign against the vulnerable Charles Kennedy, likely playing a part in his early death.

But I believe there are current and former MPs against whom far more serious charges exist. The fact that parliamentary expenses has been viewed as a more serious matter than the abuse of vulnerable children says a good deal about the distorted moral compass that exists in the circles of power.

Reports today in the Guardian, Independent, Times and Mail all suggest that Saunders decision could be overturned, as she herself intimated in an interview earlier this week. This is following a review by an independent QC, though @ExaroNews have tweeted today ‘Crisis at CPS: tonight CPS denies story in Daily Mail that DPP decision on Janner is to be reversed. Mail prob right then.’

The case for a trial of the facts against Janner is unanswerable. Anything less will smack of a high-level establishment cover-up. It is vital that in this case the truth is established whilst the alleged perpetrator is still alive. This is far more serious than any expenses scandals.

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9 Comments on “Greville Janner and Margaret Moran – trial of facts more likely for expenses fiddling than child abuse?”

  1. bobchewie says:

    SAUNDERS WAS NO LONGER A RISK TO THE PUBLIC?

    Are DPP that dangerous now Ian?

  2. Ian Pace says:

    A silly mistake, now corrected, thanks for pointing out.

  3. Becky says:

    “There have been major questions asked about the reliability of the diagnosis of dementia against Janner, in light of clear evidence of much significant activity at the House of Lords and elsewhere following the initial diagnosis (see for example this report – as Gojam has pointed out on The Needle Blog, there is a great irony in Janner being deemed too ill to face justice but well enough to legislate”

    It depends what type of dementia or stage of dementia Lord Janner has or was/is at. There are seven recognised stages of Alzheimer’s, for instance – and in the early stages apart from mild forgetfulness or confusion it barely impacts upon a person’s life or is noticed by those around them. Other forms of dementia – such as Vascular Dementia and Small Vessel Disease, whereby a series of minor or major TIAs or strokes can occur, often involve a sudden and rapid (sometime instant) deterioration.

    It is conceivable that Lord Janner might have been well enough one day to sign into and attend the House of Lords but later on in the day could have had a stroke, instantly taking him from early stage dementia to late stage. However, such a rapid change is usually accompanied by a collapse and often a broken hip etc. so if this happened there should be medical records detailing it at the time – and such people usually cannot function, toilet or even feed themselves at all after that and are either hospitalised or need 24 hour medical care in a nursing home for the remainder of their life.

    Although medical science is still nowhere near to finding out what causes dementia – let alone how to cure it – it’s still relatively easy to diagnose in its later stages as a brain scan would show significant damage to the patient’s brain.

    • Ian Pace says:

      You know that Janner was regularly attending the House of Lords right up until the time when his house was searched by police? I find it hard to believe that is just coincidence.

      Ernest Saunders was also diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, leading him to be released from a five-year sentence after only 10 months. He subsequently ‘made a full recovery’.

  4. Becky says:

    I also think finding ‘irony’ in a condition like dementia is somewhat insulting to dementia sufferers, their families and loved ones. I’m constantly surprised at how terminal organic brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and other dementias are seen as a fitting subject for humour and even a virtually medievalist attitude when having it is seen as some moral judgement upon the person yet would the same people feel it okay to ridicule and make moral judgements about cancer sufferers in a similar way? Society needs educating about dementia as it is often only when it impacts on you or a loved one that you first realise just how awful it is.

    • Ian Pace says:

      The irony is not about the dementia itself, but the fact that Janner has simultaneously been at a level where we have been told (for over a year from various quarters) that he is completely unfit to stand trial, but is still able to participate in making the laws to which he is supposedly unfit to be subject.

  5. I see from today’s edition of The Times that Janner’s to be prosecuted after all (and no, I neither take nor subscribe to that paper so I’ve seen only part of the first paragraph of the artile at http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/ ).

  6. […] Greville Janner and Margaret Moran – trial of facts more likely for expenses fiddling than child a… (27/6/15) […]


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