Two days before the publication of the Henriques Report into the CPS and Leicestershire Police inquiries into allegations against Greville Janner, I took part in a BBC Big Questions debate on whether – in the light of the Janner case – a corpse should be put on trial. As it turned out everyone on the panel seemed to accept, some a bit more reluctantly than others, that perhaps that was going a bit far, so that particular debate never really got off the ground.
What was more striking was that, almost nobody in the room expressed the slightest doubt over the proposition that Lord Janner had been “protected by the establishment.” Anyone making that point, or hinting at it, was guaranteed a thunderous round of applause.
Now I don’t suppose the small Big Questions panel or audience is particularly representative of “ordinary” people. At opposite ends of the front row sat Connie St Louis, the Professor of Journalism who last year purported to expose Tim Hunt as a sexist, a feminist comedian with a well-concealed sense of humour, and Milo Yiannopolous an astonishingly rude controversialist who, appropriately enough, had dyed his hair a striking shade of narcissus for the occasion. The audience moreover, contained one respectable looking woman who turned out during the warm-up session to be a full-on holocaust denier. Anyway, my point is that none of these very different people seemed to doubt for a moment that Janner was protected by some sort of establishment conspiracy.
Put the word “Janner” into any internet search engine and again, back come the results. “Everyone knows” that the “establishment closed ranks” to protect him.
He was investigated for offences against boys three times before he was eventually charged last year: first in 1991, again in 2002 and again in 2007.
In 1991 and 2007 the CPS decided against prosecuting him. In 2002 the relevant evidence was not given to the CPS to make any decision at all. The conventional wisdom is that he was protected by “the establishment.”
Well, we now have the Henriques report which, while it does not purport to answer every question, and certainly does not purport to pass judgement on the truth of the allegations themselves, is the most comprehensive and sober assessment of why Lord Janner was not prosecuted earlier.
Anyone looking for evidence of a conspiracy will struggle to find it in the report. That does not of course mean that they won’t find it: just that it isn’t there. Rather, what emerges is a catalogue of human error, oversights, breakdowns in communication and difficult decisions made in good faith; and although Henriques has tried very hard to avoid doing so, all of this is viewed with the benefit of considerable hindsight.
In 1991 the sole complainant was a man who had been a witness for the defence at the trial of Frank Beck, where his evidence about Janner had been derisively pooh-poohed by the prosecution QC. Henriques says – as Alison Saunders has already said – that he should have been prosecuted then, and would have been had the police carried out a more efficient investigation.
Perhaps he should, but it would be regarded as a relatively weak case even today, and had it gone to trial the CPS would have been mercilessly mocked for asking the jury to convict on the evidence of a single witness whom they themselves had rubbished in court only a few months earlier.
In 2002 a police investigation into alleged misconduct by staff at children’s homes did incidentally obtain a statement making serious allegations against Janner. It was not referred to the CPS. Clearly the police should have done so, and there are a number of questions both about this investigation and the others that are being looked into by the IPCC. It is, of course, not impossible that their inquiries will uncover something worse than inefficiency.
However, even if the statement had been given to the CPS it is most unlikely that it would have led to Janner’s prosecution. We know that because when the CPS did see it, in 2007, along with further allegations, the reviewing lawyer in Leicestershire decided that there was still no realistic prospect of a conviction.
Any “establishment conspiracy” if it existed, must have included this CPS lawyer. He was experienced and well-regarded. Indeed, as Henriques fairly notes, he had “an impeccable reputation for integrity within the CPS and Police.” He was interviewed by Henriques, and to this day he courageously maintains that he took the correct decision, on the basis of the evidence that he then had, and the CPS guidelines which were then in force. He also discussed the case with the Chief Crown Prosecutor for Leicestershire, and she, it seems, agreed with him.
It may well be that Henriques is right, and the reviewing lawyer took the wrong decision. It may well be that he made a mistake in not referring the case to higher authority within the CPS (it certainly would have “covered his back” had he done so). Human error is inevitable in any system. But are we really to believe that this hitherto decent and honourable man was part of some over-arching conspiracy, or that for some reason he took it upon himself to protect Lord Janner from prosecution in the face of overwhelming evidence? There is nothing in Henriques’s report which suggests anything of the sort.
Prosecutorial decisions can be very difficult. A failed prosecution where the evidence is not there does not help real victims, it simply ensures that they are disbelieved. Prosecutors have a duty only to bring cases where they honestly believe that a conviction is more likely than not. This experienced prosecutor thought that that test was not met. Henriques has criticised him for his judgement. He has not criticised his integrity and he was right not to do so.
None of this, sadly, will shut up the conspiracists. Snippets of the report will be quoted out of context. Rumours will continue to be treated as fact. The antisemitic websites will continue to churn out breathtakingly repulsive nonsense – the Rothschilds, the “illuminati” and the “Zionists” will continue to be blamed – and some of this bile will continue to seep into the mainstream.
And sadly when the dust settles on the Henriques Report, “everyone” will still know that Janner was guilty. “Everyone” will continue to believe that the only reason he was not prosecuted was because “the establishment” protected him. The fact that the Henriques Report gives no support at all to any such suggestion will soon be forgotten.
(This article first appeared in the Daily Telegraph 20th January 2016)