Leicestershire police were guilty of multiple serious and inexcusable failures to properly investigate allegations of child sexual abuse against the late Labour peer Greville Janner, according to a damning report.
The investigation by the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse (IICSA) into the handling of allegations against Lord Janner found that a failure by police to submit statements by two witnesses in 2001 to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) may have been the result of “complacency, incompetence or undue deference to a prominent public figure”. It criticises a “culture of disbelief” at Leicestershire police at the time whereby the credibility of complainants was dismissed.
The IICSA chair, Prof Alexis Jay, who led the inquiry panel, 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.”
One officer during Operation Magnolia, which concluded in 2002, told the inquiry there “may have been” a positive instruction not to discuss the Janner allegations at a meeting with the CPS.
The initial failures were compounded by another police investigation, Operation Dauntless, launched in 2006 on the back of another accusation against Janner, which failed to carry out further inquiries into the allegations from Operation Magnolia despite having established that they had never previously been properly investigated and that more junior officers were pressing for this to be done, the panel found. The inquiry heard from some investigating officers who said that Janner was treated differently from “the man on the street” because of who he was, although the panel said it could not determine whether this was the case.
The report, published on Tuesday, is also critical of the CPS advice in 2007, almost eight months after receiving the file, not to arrest, interview or charge Janner, saying it should have recommended further investigations be carried out. “The advice was perfunctory and gave the impression of a complacent attitude and a lack of commitment,” it said. The panel described the decisions of the CPS lawyer and DS Christopher Thomas, who led Dauntless, as “unsound and strategically flawed”, with Thomas described as “uninterested” in the allegations.
Leicestershire county council also attracted reproof for showing “undue deference” to Janner, allowing him “unrestricted access” because of his position as a local MP. While there was no evidence the council was aware of allegations of child sex abuse, the panel said staff “were aware of, and had concerns about, Lord Janner’s association with a child in its care, such that further inquiries about the nature of the association were necessary. This association was facilitated by the informal visiting arrangements that were in existence at the time.”
After another police investigation was launched, Janner was eventually charged in June 2015 with 22 offences of indecent assault and buggery relating to nine separate complainants. This was only after a controversial decision by the CPS earlier that year that it was not in the public interest to prosecute, due to Janner’s dementia, was overturned. The acts were said to have taken place between the mid-1960s and the late 1980s, when the complainants were all aged between eight and 16 years old.
The panel did not seek to examine the truth of the allegations against Janner, who denied them. He died in 2015 – bringing the criminal proceedings to an end.
Leicestershire police, the county council and the CPS all apologised for their past failings and said wholesale changes had been made to the way they handled allegations of child sex abuse, advances which were acknowledged by the report’s authors.