Peter McKelvie’s unabridged comment for the Guardian article Greville Janner affair: Children’s homes inquiry evidence ‘must be released’.
“For all the incredibly brave survivors who have come forward re Janner, they deserve at the very least an explanation as to why the Kirkwood inquiry wasn’t made public and they certainly deserve the right to know everything that was heard behind closed doors then
It is quite remarkable that the new Chair of the Independent Inquiry in to Institutional and Organised CSA had to justify her credentials to the Chair of the HASC, and be cross examined, when that person would have known the severity of the allegations facing Janner, has been a longstanding friend and confidante of Janner, even leading a campaign to clear his friend’s name in the 90’s and he failed to declare a conflict of interests and stand down as soon as Janner’s home and offices were raided by Police in 2013.”
Please also read this important article by Jay Rayner:
I saw up close how an establishment closed ranks over the Janner affair
The Observer, 19 April 2015
A little over 24 years ago, as a young freelance journalist on the Independent on Sunday, I telephoned the Leicester office of Raymonds News Agency and arranged for a reporter to cover an imminent pre-trial hearing at the city’s magistrates court. It was the sort of mundane hearing that would not normally trouble the media. A few days before, in a Leicester pub, I had met a solicitor’s clerk, to whom I had been introduced by a source on a previous story. The clerk told me that at the hearing a former children’s home manager called Frank Beck, who stood charged of sexually abusing the children in his care, would claim the man responsible for the offences was actually Leicester West’s long-standing MP, Greville, now Lord, Janner.
Events played out exactly as I had been told they would. At the hearing’s conclusion, Beck shouted out his claims and was duly wrestled to the floor by the clerk of the court, before being taken back to the cells. Rumours about Janner that had circulated in the city for some years were now recorded by the journalist I had placed there and thus out in the public domain.
Last week, the director of public prosecutions, Alison Saunders, announced that the now 86-year-old Janner would not be facing any charges on the grounds that he was suffering from dementia and therefore unfit to stand trial. It required the CPS to add that “this decision does not mean or imply that… Janner is guilty of any offence”. In turn, Janner’s family issued their own statement praising the man’s “integrity” before adding: “He is entirely innocent of any wrongdoing.”
However, in an exceptionally rare move, the CPS went on to detail the exact charges Janner would have faced had he been deemed well enough: the 22 sex offences, alleged to have taken place from 1969 to 1988, involving nine children and young adults then cared for in children’s homes. These ranged from indecent assaults to buggery. What’s more, Saunders admitted Janner should have been charged in 1991 and that there were two further missed opportunities in 2002 and 2007 when the “evidential test was passed”, meaning there was a realistic prospect of conviction.
Saunders has now appointed a high court judge to investigate the failings, though, if he likes, I can tell him now what went wrong and spare him the trouble.
The establishment, in the shape of his fellow MPs, men such as Labour’s Keith Vaz, Tory David Ashby and the then Lib Dem MP now Lord Carlile, closed ranks. Janner was a barrister and MP, a man who campaigned for justice for the victims of the Holocaust. It simply couldn’t be true. That Frank Beck was eventually found guilty of horrendous abuse charges and sent to prison (where he later died of a heart attack) aided them. Clearly Beck had been trying to save his own skin. The possibility that Janner had also been guilty didn’t seem to occur to them.
Faced by stories of cover-ups around paedophiles such as MPs Cyril Smith and Thatcher’s henchman Peter Hayman, hindsight can make it tough to get a handle on how such conspiracies functioned. Who covered up for whom? Did everybody collude to do so? What was the mechanism? Sometimes, as we can with the Janner case, you simply have to play the tape forward.
All reporters have stories that get away from them. The Janner story is mine. At the pub meeting, I was given copies of letters from Janner to one of his alleged victims. Only if you had been told a backstory do those letters look incriminating. They make arrangements to meet in hotels, talk of “mutual understanding” and sign off with expressions of “love”. My expectation was that these letters would be tested in court alongside other evidence.
Getting Beck’s shouted accusation about Janner suited my purposes. Since it happened in open court it put something on the record that at some point could be used in a story. While the Beck case was ongoing it was all sub judice and nothing further about Janner could be reported. The MP was also bound by the Contempt of Court Act. The moment Beck was found guilty, however, Janner declared in the House of Commons that there was “not a shred of truth in any of the allegations”.
What happened next was crucial. There was a (failed) parliamentary attempt to change the Contempt of Court Act to protect people named during proceedings in the way Janner had been. During the debate, many MPs, including Ashby and Carlile, spoke up for him. Key was Vaz, MP for the neighbouring Leicestershire constituency, who clearly hadn’t been party to the rumours circulating in his home town. He said his dear friend had been the “victim of a cowardly and wicked attack”. That was it. The story was dead. The Independent on Sunday was not a paper to be cowed by pressure from above, but it was simpler than that. Clearly Janner was set up. I don’t even recall being taken off the story. It was just never spoken of again.
Today, Vaz is chair of the Commons home affairs select committee. He enjoys portraying himself as a champion of the voiceless, happy to castigate the Home Office over its handling of the current investigation into child abuse. Last week, I asked Vaz via Twitter whether he had anything to say about Janner, given the CPS announcement. He responded by blocking me. He later unblocked me but, at the time of writing, has still not commented.
The temptation is to demand a law change to stop something like this happening again, but the law is perfectly adequate. It’s the way it has been exercised – or not exercised – that is at issue. In 1991, Janner consulted solicitor David Napley and the barrister George Carman, both now deceased. According to a source with knowledge of that meeting, Carman was astounded, based on what Janner had told him, that he was not later charged.
Leicestershire police are baffled now, too, and are apparently investigating ways of challenging the CPS decision. They even released a statement from an alleged victim. “If he was an everyday person with a normal life and job, justice would [have] been served,” he said. Curiously, it echoes Janner’s comments in 1997 about a man spared a trial for Nazi war crimes because of his age. “I am sorry that he was not tried while he was fit enough to stand,” he said. “There was absolutely no reason why he should have escaped charges forever.”
How was this allowed to happen? Perhaps it was simply force of personality, which I saw at first hand. In May 1992, Janner invited me to tea. I was intrigued. I knew people who worked for him and had been asking pointed questions. He must have known this. If so, he gave no indication. He cheerfully poured the tea, handed round sandwiches and talked light politics. He didn’t give the impression of a man who feared the judicial system catching up with him. As of last week, it never will.