Revelations that opportunities were missed to prosecute a former Labour peer for alleged sex attacks on children have been described as “very depressing” by a senior prosecutor.
Lord Janner, now 86, was investigated by three different police inquiries between 1991 and 2007, and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) admitted it was “wrong” not to prosecute the peer back then.
Asked about the missed opportunities, Nazir Afzal, who led the CPS in North West England from 2011 until earlier this year,said: “That is very depressing. There were many, many mistakes made in the past based on judgments that were really poor.
“It’s absolutely important that we learn from these incidents and any incidents that happened in the past.
“People have got better but this has to be every agency getting better at what they do and I am sad to say that today I still think there are major, major gaps in the way we deal with child protection.”
It was claimed today that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Alison Saunders personally overruled senior lawyers to block the prosecution of Greville Janner.
Asked about the reports, Mr Afzal said: “My understanding is that the DPP takes responsibility for all of the case work, particularly the very serious case work, and she has to be sure whether a case should proceed or not.
“I’m not going to second guess what Alison Saunders has done in this case. I don’t speak for the CPS.
“I know that a significant amount of consideration goes into these types of cases.”
He told BBC News it was “extremely rare” and “exceptional” for the public interest test to overrule the evidence.
“In this case it must have been exceptional,” he said. “I understand four doctors came to the same conclusion, that this individual was not in a position to have a fair trial.
“Prosecutors, all of us, have to ensure there has to be a fair trial. The person has to be able to defend him or herself.”
Lord Janner allegedly used his power as an MP for Leicester to abuse vulnerable young boys at a local children’s home in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.
Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders said there is enough evidence to charge Lord Janner with 22 sex offences, but he is now too sick to stand trial.
The move was branded “perverse” by police, who are threatening legal action to overturn it.
Lord Janner strongly denies the allegations against him. In statement, his family said: “Lord Janner is a man of great integrity and high repute with a long and unblemished record of public service. He is entirely innocent of any wrongdoing.
“As the Crown Prosecution Service indicated today, this decision does not mean or imply that any of the allegations that have been made are established or that Lord Janner is guilty of any offence.”
The peer has been suspended from the Labour Party.