Why the CPS are right about Greville Janner

by Ray_North on April 29, 2015

UnknownThe attack dogs of the Murdoch press have been unleashed upon the CPS – far be it from me to suggest that there is an element of revenge for the CPS’s decision to prosecute various Fleet Street journalists for offences following the phone tapping scandal – but, it does seem that the campaign waged against the CPS is, even by the standards of the right wing newspapers, relentless and vitriolic.

And, at the moment the battleground is the CPS’s decision not to prosecute former Labour MP and Peer, Greville Janner.

By way of background, Janner has been accused by a number of people of offences involving historic abuse of children. I can say now that I have no knowledge of the facts of the case or the strength of the evidence against Mr Janner, what I have heard though is that Mr Janner is suffering from ‘serious dementia,’ something that I assume has been verified by at least one psychiatric expert.

This means that Janner is almost certainly ‘not fit to plead,’ – in the Criminal Courts, if someone is not fit to plead, it means that they are no longer mentally capable of understanding the evidence, giving instructions or challenging the evidence or a jury. If two psychiatrists give evidence that someone is not fit to plead – then the Court is then, in law, limited as to what it can do – one option is to have a trial, where a jury will decide if someone did the act that is alleged, which is a trial in which evidence will rarely be challenged, because the defence Counsel has no coherent instructions to do so. If the jury conclude that the accused did do the act, then the Judge has two options as to sentence – he can either make the individual subject to a hospital order, or he can absolutely discharge them, which means that effectively they get away ‘scott free’.

In the case of someone who is elderly and suffering from severe dementia, a Judge will be very reluctant to make them subject to a hospital order, because, quite simply, they aren’t going to get better – nor are they likely to be any threat to the general public.

If Janner was tried then, in the event of a conviction (and you can bet your bottom dollar that very clever lawyers would argue vociferously that it was an abuse of process to try a public figure who can’t defend himself, before it got anywhere near a jury), the chances are he would end up being conditionally discharged, which, clearly, for offences of child abuse, would be wholly inappropriate.

When the CPS are presented with an allegation, they have to consider the evidence and ask themselves two questions – first, is there a reasonable prospect of conviction, and second, is it in the public interest to prosecute.

In the case of Janner, the CPS have difficulty passing the public interest test – because the amount of money it would cost to bring this ill and old man to Court, child abuser or not, to see him declared not fit to plead and then, perhaps eventually be absolutely discharged, is, quite frankly, and this is in no way meant to sound callous towards his alleged victims, a waste of time.

Despite the attempts by the media to turn this into a political issue, or paint the CPS as apologists for paedophiles, in the case of Greville Janner they have got it spot on.

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