Greville Janner and Margaret Moran – trial of facts more likely for expenses fiddling than child abuse?Posted: June 27, 2015
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.
Former Liberal Party President Des Wilson has written a scathing piece about Cyril Smith and the Liberal/Liberal Democrat Party for today’s Mail. Wilson writes in disparaging terms of a self-serving parliamentary party out of touch with its own activists, of feeble MPs too afraid to stand up a sexual and political bully like Smith, the ineffectiveness of David Steel as leader, and so on. The following passage is especially interesting:
Oh, I remember them all.
There was the MP who virtually sustained the whisky industry on his own. If you lit a match too close to his breath you could have made Guy Fawkes Night look like a back-garden barbecue. Many a bar would have been bankrupted without his presence. (And this was before the days of Charles Kennedy.)
As for affairs, Paddy Ashdown was not the only parliamentary party member whose secretary was valued for more than her typing skills.
Then there was the local party leader from well to the north of Watford who had to be woken from his bed on many a Friday and Saturday night to attend a local police station and rescue his MP from trouble after he had been picked up in one dubious circumstance or another. This MP once asked me to travel for three hours to speak to his local party one Friday evening. When I arrived at his house he was just welcoming two attractive ‘boys’ who had also travelled from London on the same train. I was put in a taxi and sent to the meeting without even the offer of dinner while the MP headed to some dodgy backstreet club with his much younger friends.
And, then, there was Cyril Smith who somehow survived more than 140 complaints to the police. How could that possibly happen?
So who in particular was this MP from north of Watford to whom Wilson refers, who may also have been guilty of criminal offences (depending upon the age of the ‘boys’)? Wilson was involved in the Liberal Party from 1973, becoming the President of the Party from 1986-87 (just before the merger with the Social Democratic Party in 1988, producing the Liberal Democrats), then running the 1992 election campaign, after which time he stepped down.
I intend to look at Wilson’s other books presently to see if there are any other clues, but though for now I would list all Liberal or Liberal Democrat MPs for seats North of Watford during this period. It is unlikely to have been Steel, Smith, Kennedy or David Alton as they are all mentioned in other contexts in the article. I would also imagine the MP in question to have been in Parliament during the period of Wilson’s Presidency from 1986 to 1987, or possibly during the run-up to the 1992 election campaign.
Jo Grimond, Orkney and Shetland, 1950-1983 (Liberal) (deceased)
Emlyn Hooson, Montgomeryshire, 1962-79 (Liberal) (deceased)
Russell Johnston, Inverness, 1964-83; Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber, 1983-88 (Liberal), 1988-97 (Liberal Democrat) (deceased)
David Steel, Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles, 1965-83; Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale, 1983-88 (Liberal), 1988-97 (Liberal Democrat)
Richard Wainwright, Colne Valley, 1966-70, 1974-87 (Liberal) (deceased)
Michael Winstanley, Cheadle, 1966-70; Hazel Grove, 1974 (Liberal) (deceased)
Cyril Smith, Rochdale, 1972-88 (Liberal), 1988-92 (Liberal Democrat) (deceased)
David Austick, Ripton, 1973-74 (Liberal) (deceased)
Clement Freud, Isle of Ely, 1973-83; North East Cambridgeshire, 1983-87 (Liberal) (deceased)
Alan Beith, Berwick-upon-Tweed, 1973-88 (Liberal), 1988-present (Liberal Democrat)
Geraint Howells, Cardigan, 1974-83; Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire North, 1983-88 (Liberal), 1988-92 (Liberal Democrat) (deceased)
David Alton, Liverpool Mossley Hill, 1979-88 (Liberal), 1988-97 (Liberal Democrat)
Michael Meadowcroft, Leeds West, 1983-87 (Liberal)
Malcolm Bruce, Gordon, 1983-88 (Liberal), 1988-present (Liberal Democrat)
Alex Carlile, Montgomeryshire, 1983-88 (Liberal), 1988-97 (Liberal Democrat)
Archy Kirkwood, Roxburgh and Berwickshire, 1983-88 (Liberal), 1988-2005 (Liberal Democrat)
James Robert Wallace, Orkney and Shetland, 1983-88 (Liberal), 1988-2001 (Liberal Democrat)
Richard Livsey, Brecon and Radnorshire, 1985-88 (Liberal), 1988-92, 1997-2001 (Liberal Democrat) (deceased)
Elizabeth Shields, Ryedale, 1986-87 (Liberal)
Menzies Campbell, North East Fife, 1987-88 (Liberal), 1988-present (Liberal Democrat)
Ronald Fearn, Southport, 1987-88 (Liberal), 1988-92, 1997-2001
Janet Ray Michie, Argyll and Bute, 1987-88 (Liberal), 1988-2001 (Liberal Democrat) (deceased)
Charles Kennedy, Ross, Cromarty and Skye, 1988-97, Ross, Skye and Inverness West, 1997-2005, Ross, Skey and Lochaber, 2005-present (Liberal Democrat)
Robert Maclennan, Caithness and Sutherland, 1988–97; Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, 1997–2001 (Liberal Democrat)
Michael Carr, Ribble Valley, 1991-92 (Liberal Democrat)
Nicol Stephen, Kincardine and Deeside, 1991-92 (Liberal Democrat)
Other MPs not North of Watford:
Jeremy Thorpe, North Devon, 1959-79 (Liberal)
John Pardoe, North Cornwall, 1966-79 (Liberal)
Graham Tope, Sutton and Cheam, 1972-74 (Liberal)
Christopher Mayhew, Woolwich East, 1974 (Liberal) (deceased)
Paul Tyler, Bodmin, 1974 (Liberal); North Cornwall, 1992-2005 (Liberal Democrat)
David Penhaligon, Truro, 1974-86 (Liberal) (deceased)
Stephen Ross, Isle of Wight, 1974-87 (Liberal) (deceased)
Bill Pitt, Croydon North West, 1981-83 (Liberal)
Simon Hughes, Bermondsey, 1983; Southwark and Bermondsey, 1983-88 (Liberal), 1988-97; North Southwark and Bermondsey, 1997-present (Liberal Democrat)
Paddy Ashdown, Yeovil, 1983-88 (Liberal), 1988-2002 (Liberal Democrat)
Matthew Taylor, Truro, 1987-88 (Liberal), 1988-97; Truro and St Austell, 1997-2010 (Liberal Democrat)
David Bellotti, Eastbourne, 1990-92 (Liberal Democrat)
All of the MPs listed above should also be asked what they knew about Cyril Smith.