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Monday, December 21, 2015 

Justice delayed is justice denied, but the furore over Janner was disgraceful.

Greville Janner is dead.  This much we know.  He died, his family say, from a long illness.  But then they would, wouldn't they?  The symptoms of Alzheimer's disease are fairly easy to fake; all you need do is pretend not to recognise anyone, speak incoherently or not at all, forget how to do absolutely anything for yourself, and so on.  Isn't his death very convenient, just like Leon Brittan's was?  Sure, they say Brittan had cancer, but how can we trust them either?

Janner might well have been guilty of all he was accused of.  Equally, he might have been innocent.  He should undoubtedly have faced a trial, had he not been incapacitated by dementia, as it's now it's clear he was.

Now that he has died, and speaking as someone who watched his grandmother week by week deteriorate until she finally, mercifully, took to her bed and and passed away, Alzheimer's having triumphed over her at last, it would have been at least sporting if those who doubted the diagnosis made some sort of acknowledgement of those facts.  Nothing more, just accept that clearly he was ill.  His alleged victims had and still have every right to want their day in court.

It does though rather put the entire controversy over whether Janner should have been charged or not in a different light.  It suggests that Alison Saunders, the director of public prosecutions, was right when she decided back in April that Janner was not fit to stand trial.  It remains to be seen whether or not the trial of the facts, established after Saunders' decision was reviewed, does continue, although it's difficult to see how it will be able to.  Janner wasn't able to participate, in any case, and as former DPP Ken Macdonald has said, a decision to continue would be "groundbreaking, and probably groundbreaking in an unfortunate way".

That decision to order a trial of the facts should itself now be reviewed.  Whether an opinion was sought or not on how long Janner may have to live, deaths as an overall result of Alzheimer's can happen quickly, sometimes within a couple of weeks of there seemingly being no change in overall condition.  Janner's alleged victims were given false hope, for the best of reasons it should be stressed, when it may have been better for Saunders' initial decision to have stood.

Saunders would have been criticised regardless of the decision she made.  Such however has been the tenor of the debate around child abuse post-Savile that there were open accusations, including by newspapers, that Saunders was just the latest official to be conniving in a cover-up.  The likes of Simon Danczuk MP said her position was untenable, and now comments that while it's "very sad" for Janner's relatives, it's "extremely sad" for those who had hoped for justice.  If he felt any doubt over his call for Saunders' resignation over such a marginal, balanced, difficult decision, then he certainly didn't let on.

Especially unpleasant in retrospect was the stand-off between Janner's representatives and the court, with the court succeeding in its request he attend a preliminary hearing.  After a year in which we've seen the most lurid of allegations made, without seemingly being any closer to the police investigations reaching the point of either charges being brought or the inquiries being dropped, despite the chief investigation officer deeming them to be "credible and true" back in 2014, the claims of conspiracies look set to run and run.

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