Lord Janner child sex abuse charges: Former Labour MP expected to appear in court

Peer's legal team have attempted to prevent the appearance

John Aston,Tim Moynihan
Friday 14 August 2015 08:11
The former Labour peer and MP was ordered to appear at Westminster Magistrates' Court in London in relation to 22 charges
The former Labour peer and MP was ordered to appear at Westminster Magistrates' Court in London in relation to 22 charges

Lord Janner is expected to appear in court to face child abuse charges after his lawyers lost a High Court bid to prevent him having to attend.

Two senior judges ruled an appearance by the 87-year-old former Labour peer and MP must take place because of "the obvious and strong public interest in ensuring those summoned to court attend when required".

The judges said the public interest outweighed any personal distress that might be caused to Janner who suffers from dementia. In any event that distress would be "of short duration" and arrangements could be made to minimise its effects.

Unless there is a successful last-minute appeal, Janner will have to appear at Westminster Magistrates Court in London at 9.45am in relation to 22 child abuse charges spanning a period from the 1960s to the 1980s.

A failure to do so could lead to an arrest warrant being issued against him.

Paul Ozin, appearing for the peer, had asked the High Court to use its powers to stop a warrant being issued and give Janner time to seek judicial review of the decision to order him to court.

Mr Ozin said the unchallenged medical evidence was that Janner was suffering from severe dementia because of Alzheimer's disease and showing symptoms of Parkinson's disease and would be unfit to plead or attend any trial.

Mr Ozin said forcing Janner to court could lead to a "catastrophic reaction" and "a perfect storm" of extreme distress, breaching the peer's rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.

He added: "It is barbaric, inhuman and uncivilised to expose a very vulnerable person to the experience I have alluded to, particularly when it is wholly unnecessary and serves no logical purpose."

He described the decision of Senior District Judge Howard Riddle, chief magistrate at Westminster, to require Janner's attendance as "irrational and perverse" and said it threatened to rob the peer of his dignity.

The judges rejected Janner's application without calling on the Crown Prosecution Service to defend Judge Riddle's decision.

Lady Justice Rafferty, sitting with Mr Justice Irwin, said the peer had been charged with offences which must be tried in the crown court, and for that to happen he had to appear at the magistrates court - if only briefly - so the case could progress.

There was no power for it to proceed in Janner's absence and the suggested alternative of a voluntary bill of indictment not requiring his appearance was irrelevant to the issues before the court.

Judge Riddle had been right to conclude that even if Janner suffered a "catastrophic reaction" it would be transient and the hearing itself was likely to be brief.

The judge rejected claims that making Janner appear would breach his Article 3 rights under the European Convention on Human Rights not to be subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment.

Nor would it unlawfully breach his Article 8 right to protection for his private and family life.

The judge said: "It is simply unarguable that Article 3 is engaged. There is no question of torture, or of inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment."

Article 8 was "a qualified right and must be weighed against other considerations.

"In this context they include the obvious and strong public interest in ensuring those summoned to court attend when required. Equally, there is a compelling public interest in public justice.

"The court must not become a place of avoidable spectacle, but it is very important that the route to justice should be public."

The judge said: "Given the nature of the distress feared, and its short duration and that arrangements can minimise the effect on the claimant, we unhesitatingly conclude that the balance comes down in favour of the claimant's attendance, for the brief period required."

Press Association