‘Multiple failings’ over handling of child abuse claims against Lord Janner, report finds

19 October 2021, 12:08 | Updated: 19 October 2021, 12:20

Lord Janner, who died in 2015, denied all charges against him
Lord Janner, who died in 2015, denied all charges against him. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

Children who reported being sexually abused by the late Labour grandee Lord Janner were "let down by institutional failings", a damning inquiry into responses to their allegations has concluded.

Leicestershire Police officers investigating decades of abuse claims against Lord Janner regularly "did not look beyond the often troubled backgrounds" of the alleged victims, who said they were abused in children's homes in the county between the early 1960s and the late 1980s.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) accused Detective Superintendent Christopher Thomas, who led Operation Dauntless, the third police investigation into Lord Janner, of being "uninterested" in the allegations, while colleagues were "quick to dismiss" some testimonies.

Lord Janner, a Labour MP from 1970 until 1997 when he was made a peer in the House of Lords, was charged with 22 counts of child sexual abuse offences, relating to nine different boys, in 2015.

He died with dementia later that year while awaiting trial, and always denied the allegations.

Professor Alexis Jay, who is chairing the wide-ranging abuse inquiry, said: "Despite numerous serious allegations against the late Lord Janner, police and prosecutors appeared reluctant to fully investigate the claims against him.

"On multiple occasions police put too little emphasis on looking for supporting evidence and shut down investigations without pursuing all outstanding inquiries."

She also said Leicestershire County Council had a "sorry record of failures" relating to abuse at children's homes dating back to the 1960s.

The report described the decision-making of both Mr Thomas and Roger Rock, reviewing lawyer for the Crown Prosecution Service, as "unsound and strategically flawed".

Prof Jay added: "This investigation has brought up themes we are now extremely familiar with (across the whole inquiry), such as deference to powerful individuals, the barriers to reporting faced by children and the need for institutions to have clear policies and procedures setting out how to respond to allegations of child sexual abuse, regardless of the prominence of the alleged abuser."

More than 30 complainants were involved in the inquiry, with their lawyers describing how poor children in care were on a "conveyor belt to abuse".

They alleged being seriously sexually abused in a range of locations, including schools, a flat in London, a hotel, Lord Janner's car and the Houses of Parliament.

The report was particularly critical of Mr Thomas, the senior investigation officer in 2006.

It said: "Our overriding sense is that Det Supt Christopher Thomas was uninterested in this investigation, and his decisions to limit the inquiries undertaken appeared to be reflective of a wider failure to pursue the investigation with the rigour it deserved, rather than being motivated by a wish to protect Lord Janner or show him undue deference."

The inquiry did not examine whether or not the allegations against Lord Janner were true.

But it found "crucial statements" in 2000's Operation Magnolia police investigation were "brushed under the carpet".

And it claimed police and prosecutors "appeared reluctant to progress" the subsequent Dauntless investigation.

A CPS spokesman said: "The CPS has acknowledged past failings in the way allegations made against Lord Janner were handled.

"It is remains a matter of sincere regret that opportunities were missed to put these allegations before a jury.

"We have co-operated fully with the inquiry and will carefully consider its conclusions."

Richard Scorer, a specialist abuse lawyer at law firm Slater and Gordon who represented 14 complainants at the inquiry, said: "This report makes clear that there were serious, unacceptable and repeated failings by both Leicestershire Police and Leicestershire County Council in their response to allegations against Lord Janner.

"Had investigations been conducted properly, it is clear that Lord Janner could have been prosecuted in his lifetime.

"As it was, serious allegations were brushed under the carpet and concerns remain that Lord Janner was treated differently because of his status.

"Sadly the clock cannot be rolled back and the criminal trial of Lord Janner which could and should have taken place will never be possible."