Lord Macdonald QC criticises local CPS officials for dropping pursuit of charges without consulting headquarters, helping Labour peer escape prosecution
A former director of public prosecutions has criticised Crown Prosecution Service officials for failing to present him with new evidence in 2007 of the Labour peer Lord Janner’s alleged abuse of children.
Lord Macdonald QC said that instead of passing on allegations of serious sexual offences against Janner, local CPS officials in Leicestershire dropped the pursuit of charges without consulting headquarters in London.
His comments shed more light on how Janner escaped prosecution for eight years, following a third police inquiry into claims that he abused a number of young boys.
Campaigners for abused victims claim there has been an establishment coverup for more than 25 years that has helped Janner escape prosecution.
In a statement, Macdonald said: “It is a matter of great regret that I was never informed of the existence of this case in 2007. If it had been referred to me, I would certainly have given it my close and robust personal attention.
“The grave failure on the part of the local CPS lawyers to refer this case to headquarters is no doubt one of the matters that Sir Richard Henriques will be looking at in his review of these cases.”
Police are threatening an unprecedented judicial review of the decision by the current DPP, Alison Saunders, not to charge Janner with child abuse. Officers are pursuing other alleged paedophiles who gathered around children’s homes at the same time, it was confirmed on Friday.
Officers from Leicestershire police believe that Janner was one of a number of alleged abusers visiting the county’s institutions in the 1970s and 1980s.
Inquiries continued as Ed Miliband spoke for the first time about his shock at the allegations against the MP for Leicester West, who was elevated to the Lords under Tony Blair’s government. Miliband called for victims to give evidence to an independent inquiry set up by the DPP.
Janner allegedly used his position as an MP and campaigner for children to abuse vulnerable young boys at a local children’s home in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.
Saunders issued a startling statement on Thursday in which she said there was enough evidence to charge Janner with 22 sex offences, but that he was now too sick to stand trial.
Saunders blamed failings within her own department and the police for the collapse of three previous inquiries into the former MP for Leicester West. Her decision was branded perverse by police, who are threatening legal action to overturn it.
Police confirmed on Friday that Operation Enamel, the investigation into child abuse, would continue, but declined to comment on whether the force was pursuing other high-profile individuals including politicians.
Asst Ch Con Roger Bannister said in a statement: “This man is not the only individual being investigated by Operation Enamel and our determination to bring others to justice is undaunted.”
Saunders overruled the lead counsel, Eleanor Laws QC, who had recommended that Janner should be charged. The expert in child sex abuse cases wrote an advice note in November on why a prosecution was in the public interest.
A Crown Prosecution Service spokeswoman said it was usual for the DPP to take advice, but the ultimate decision was hers to take.
Janner could face a huge legal bill as his alleged victims explore launching compensations claims to allow them to have their day in court. At least one of the 25 alleged victims who gave evidence to the police investigation has already instructed lawyers to sue Janner and Leicestershire county council, which ran the children’s home where he was allegedly abused between 1981 and 1988.
Peter Garsden, the president of the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers and a partner at the firm Quality Solicitors Abney Garsden, which represents the alleged victim, said the allegations were of “the most extreme abuse”.
The man’s civil claim was now “full steam ahead” following the abrupt end of the criminal investigation on Thursday, Garsden said. “This is the only way the alleged victims in this case are going to get some sort of justice.”
Liz Dux, of the law firm Slater & Gordon, which represents 168 victims of Jimmy Savile and 10 of the former Rochdale MP Cyril Smith, said Janner could now be liable to pay sizeable compensation sums to his alleged victims. Civil redress was their logical next step, she said.
The men who made complaints of abuse at the hands of Janner have been supported throughout the police investigation by specialist charities. One of the those involved, First Step in Leicester, offers free and confidential face-to-face counselling sessions for male victims of abuse.
Cas, from First Step said: “Our main concern now is making sure we continue to be here for people for the foreseeable future and that we continue to support them and other people who come forward.”
Janner was suspended from the Labour party on Thursday, but will remain a peer.
Labour officials contacted Leicestershire police last year about the Janner inquiry, but were given little information about the seriousness of the claims against him, a party source said.
Miliband, speaking at the launch of the party’s manifesto for young people, said: “I am shocked by the allegations, and my heart goes out to the victims … It is incredibly important that the victims speak to the child abuse inquiry so that they at least get the chance to have their say.”
Janner and his family strongly deny the allegations against him.
First Step Leicester has a helpline for survivors of child abuse in Leicestershire and Rutland seeking support. The number is 07581 568144.
Source: The Guardian