Lord Janner’s lawyers lose bid to prevent him appearing in court

Lord Janner’s lawyers lose bid to prevent him appearing in court

File photo dated 10/9/1996 of Lord Greville Janner as a leading child abuse lawyer has written to Britain's most senior prosecutor in an attempt to overturn the decision not to bring the Labour peer to trial.
Lord Greville Janner

Lawyers for Lord Janner have lost a High Court bid to prevent him having to attend court tomorrow to face child abuse charges.

The former Labour peer and MP was ordered to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London in relation to 22 charges spanning a period from the 1960s to the 1980s.

His legal team says that the 87-year-old is suffering from dementia, and forcing him to attend court in person is unlawful and violates his human rights.

They wanted tomorrow’s hearing halted to give him time to seek judicial review of the decision that he must attend.

Lady Justice Rafferty, sitting with Mr Justice Irwin, said the court had “unhesitatingly concluded” that the balance between the human rights of Lord Janner and “the public interest in public justice” came down in favour of (Janner’s) attendance in court for the brief period required by the law.

Janner’s lawyers are now considering whether to make an application to a Court of Appeal judge.

Paul Ozin, appearing for Janner, had asked the High Court to grant an order to stop a warrant being issued for the peer’s arrest if he failed to attend court tomorrow.

That would give Janner‘s legal team to apply for a judicial review of the decision to force him to court.

Mr Ozin said the decision of Senior District Judge Howard Riddle, chief magistrate at Westminster, to require Janner‘s attendance was “irrational and perverse” and threatened to rob the peer of his dignity.

The unchallenged medical evidence was that Janner was suffering from such severe dementia because of Alzheimer’s Disease that he would be unfit to plead or attend any trial.

It was now at such an advanced level of severity – there were also symptoms of Parkinson’s disease – that having to attend court was likely to lead to a “catastrophic reaction” and “a perfect storm” of extreme distress, breaching the peer’s rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Mr Ozin added: “It is barbaric, inhuman and uncivilised to expose a very vulnerable person to the experience I have alluded to, particularly when it is wholly unnecessary and serves no logical purpose.”

He argued there was an alternative method – a voluntary bill of indictment – to bring the peer to trial without him having to appear before the magistrates court in person which would be “both medically undesirable and potentially dangerous, leading to injury”.

Rejecting Janner‘s application, Lady Justice Rafferty said the chief magistrate “was not wrong in his decision” and his order for Janner to appear must stand.

The judge said the peer had been charged with offences which must be tried in the crown court “and by some means the case must progress to it”.

The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 contemplated his appearance at the magistrates’ court from which he would be sent to the crown court.

There was no power in the magistrates court to proceed in the absence of the accused and the suggested alternative of a voluntary bill of indictment was irrelevant to the issues before the court, said the judge.

The chief magistrate had concluded that even if Janner suffered a ” ‘catastrophic reaction’ – that is become distressed, irritable or angry, wave his arms about, become intolerant of the situation and leave the room, none of those reactions was certain, and each would be transient.

“It will not be necessary for the claimant to remain in court for the entirety of proceedings which in any event are likely to be brief.”

The chief magistrates was also ready to allow Janner to leave court if he became distressed, and he would be permitted so to do so “once he had made the formal appearance necessary”.

The judge rejected claims that making Janner appear would breach his Article 3 rights under the European Convention on Human Rights not to be subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment.

Nor would it unlawfully breach his Article 8 right to protection for his private and family life.

The judge said: “It is simply unarguable that Article 3 is engaged. There is no question of torture, or of inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.”

The judge added that Article 8 was “a qualified right and must be weighed against other considerations.

“In this context they include the obvious and strong public interest in ensuring those summoned to court attend when required. Equally, there is a compelling public interest in public justice.

“The court must not become a place of avoidable spectacle, but it is very important that the route to justice should be public.”

The judge said the chief magistrate “was clearly conscious of that, even if the argument before him did not focus on Article 8.

“Given the nature of the distress feared, and its short duration and that arrangements can minimise the effect on the claimant, we unhesitatingly conclude that the balance comes down in favour of the claimant’s attendance, for the brief period required.

“The (chief magistrate) was not wrong in his decision. This judgment, which is that of the court, is that interim relief is refused.”

Lawyers for Lord Janner said they will not be appealing later today against the High Court’s ruling.

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