There is a fine line between loyalty to a friend and colleague and poor judgement. Keith Vaz, the Labour MP for Leicester East, bound himself to the fate of the late Lord Janner when in 1991 he made a strong statement in parliament, staunchly defending Janner, then also a Labour MP, who had been accused of child sexual abuse. The case against Janner is still under investigation.
Why raise this now?
Well, recently, Vaz’s personal interests – and his judgements – have come under scrutiny as a result of a sex (and drugs) scandal of his own, which resulted in his resignation as Chair of the prestigious Home Affairs Select Committee.
It was reported in the Sunday Mirror that Vaz had been attending sex parties with male prostitutes. Such activity is entirely legal; nor can media intrusion of this kind be sanctioned. However, there is a public interest aspect here, given Vaz’s official role in making recommendations on prostitution and the use of ‘poppers’.
Vaz, pretending he was a washing machine salesman, paid for the services of the sex workers and asked one of them to bring along ‘poppers’, a sex-enhancing drug that was to be banned, but in the end was not, thanks partly to the recommendation of the Committee of which Vaz chaired. The Home Affairs Select Committee is also in the process of reviewing laws relating to sex work. In July, it released an interim report recommending that “the Home Office should immediately change existing legislation so that soliciting is no longer an offence and brothel-keeping laws allow sex workers to share premises, without losing the ability to prosecute those who use brothels to control or exploit sex workers”.
For someone like Vaz, who held such a high-profile position in a committee that also had oversight of national police matters, his sexual adventures undoubtedly demonstrated a profound lack of judgement. And it is inconceivable that, given their comprehensive surveillance capabilities, the intelligence services – GCHQ and MI5, in particular – were unaware of Vaz’s indiscretions.
In light of these recent and other indiscretions – and given that the Home Affairs Select Committee also has oversight of the work of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse – it is entirely legitimate to ask whether Vaz’s defence of Janner should now be re-examined. Indeed, it could even be argued that the extensive delay by the police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in addressing the allegations made against Janner, was partly a consequence of that defence.
Moreover, that delay may have impeded the wider investigations into what eventually became known as the Westminster/VIP child sexual abuse scandal – questions about which remain unresolved.
As a reminder, here is a summary of the Janner case and the alleged cover-ups that have surrounded it…
The Janner case and police investigation inconsistencies
In 1991 a complaint of sexual assault was made against Greville Janner MP during investigations into the Leicestershire care home manager and paedophile Frank Beck. A man alleged he had been groomed by Janner between the ages of 13 and 15. During the trial Beck claimed he had intervened to prevent Janner from abusing and buggering a child at one of the homes. The CPS, however, advised that there was insufficient evidence to charge Janner and the investigation into the claims was dropped.
Janner used a speech in the House of Commons to vehemently deny the allegations. Janner was supported by a number of colleagues, notably Keith Vaz, who made a statemen in support of his colleague in Parliament.
In 2002 during another Leicestershire Police inquiry – Operation Magnolia (note the paucity of information on it) – allegations were once again made against Janner – this time by residents of a Leicestershire care home. However, police decided to take no further action against him and they did not pass on details of the allegations to the CPS.
In 2007, as part of Operation Dauntless (referred to here in a 2016 inquiry document) Operation Dauntless, an individual (who wished to remain anonymous) made complaints about serious sexual assault against three people, including Janner, in relation to incidents that were alleged to have taken place in 1981. The CPS, again, decided not to prosecute.
In 2013 an investigation – named in 2014 as Operation Enamel – was established by Leicestershire Police and more than a dozen allegations were made against Janner. Police searched Janner’s home and his Westminster offices as part of the investigation.
Delayed reaction or cover-up?
According to Leicestershire Police there were 25 victims of child sex abuse by Janner.
In 2015 during the course of investigations into the allegations made against Janner, more than 2,000 individuals were seen, 442 statements taken, more than 2,700 lines of enquiry were pursued and police seized/created nearly 600 exhibits, including cine film and videos.
Mick Creedon, a detective sergeant on the Frank Beck case was a DI in Leicestershire Constabulary and ran the (aborted) investigation into the child sex abuse scandal involving Janner. Later, as chief constable of Derbyshire police, he told the press that he and his colleagues had wanted to charge Janner, but that senior officers had ordered him to neither arrest Janner nor search his London flat.
In April 2015 the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said that it would be looking into Leicestershire Police’s handling of complaints made against Janner and others in 1991, 2001, and 2006.
DPP Saunders admitted that both the CPS and Leicestershire police shared blame for the failure of the previous prosecutions against Janner.
Ms. Saunders stated: “In relation to the other three previous investigations, the CPS also now considers that the evidence test was passed. It follows that mistakes were made in the decision-making at the time by both Leicestershire Police in 2002 and the CPS in 1991 and 2007. Lord Janner should have been prosecuted.”
She added that had Janner not been suffering from dementia he would have been charged with 22 separate offences. 14 of these offences related to assaults on males under 16 between 1969 and 1988, two concerned indecent assaults between 1984 and 1988, 4 related to counts of buggery of a male under 16 between 1972 and 1987, and 2 concerned counts of buggery between 1977 and 1988.
Assistant Chief Constable of Leicestershire Police, Roger Bannister, who had overseen the more recent investigations, said: “There is credible evidence that this man [Janner] carried out some of the most serious sexual crimes imaginable over three decades against children who were highly vulnerable and the majority of whom were in care. We are exploring what possible legal avenues there may be to challenge this [CPS] decision and victims themselves have a right to review under a CPS procedure.”
The allegations made against Janner were circulated at a time when it was shown how 114 files relating to child sex abuse and the Westminster establishment had gone missing. No one could identify what had happened to these files, so that was that.
Well, not exactly… here is a list, found in an internal government document that just happens to be accessible via the Internet, of those files. In fact this ilist ncludes far, far more than 114 missing files. On the first page it is listed that more than 300,000 files were either destroyed or have gone missing.
As for the ‘missing’ Janner file regarding questions about child sex abuse, this has been identified – again from a government 23 page internal document that happens to be accessible via the Internet -see extract below.
The Janner file is listed as code no. CRI 86 and entitled “PO37812/86 Greville Janner MP Re. Evidence in Child Abuse Cases”. The notes accompanying the extract state that the file was ‘presumed transferred to the MOJ” (Ministry of Justice).
The Government document in it entirety lists the many MPs who raised questions about child sex abuse. (For the broader context re these files, click here.)
Parallel to the Janner investigations, yet another police operation was launched – Operation Hydrant – to “oversee the investigation of allegations of non-recent child sexual abuse within institutions or by people of public prominence”. This was the official beginnings of the inquiries into the Westminster/VIP child sex abuse allegations.
Altogether Operation Hydrant received reports of:
- 1433 suspects of which 216 are deceased
- 666 suspects are related to institutions
- 261 are classified as people of public prominence
- 506 are classified as unidentified
- 357 institutions have been identified within the scope of the operation
It has also been reported that six of Janner’s alleged abuse victims are making claims against the Janner estate in the civil courts. The Independent Police Complaints Commission is also investigating 11 people over the alleged mishandling by Leicestershire police of child sexual abuse allegations against Janner. The IPCC said it had served criminal and gross misconduct notices on 11 individuals, who are not named.
Greville Janner’s family are equally determined to see justice done.
Meanwhile, in August 2016 the resignation-prone Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse saw the resignation of New Zealand judge Lowell Goddard. The first two chairs appointed to the Inquiry were Baroness Butler-Sloss and Fiona Woolf: both stepped down because of objections that they were too close to the very establishment the inquiry was investigating. The Inquiry will now be led by Professor Alexis Jay, who, unlike her predecessors, is not from a privileged background.
Professor Jay has a huge task to deal with – not just with regard to the allegations raised against Janner, but also the Westminster and VIPs scandal and the widespread abuse believed to still take place in institutions throughout the UK.