Lord Janner loses bid to avoid attending court

Lord Janner loses bid to avoid attending court

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Introduction

We have covered the Janner case fairly extensively (you can start here and follow the links), including when he failed to attend Court last Friday.

On 13th August 2015 it was reported on the BBC that Lord Janner had lost a “High Court bid over child abuse charges“.

 

What does this mean?

This did not actually relate to the substance of any of the allegations that Lord Janner faces. It was to do with the question of whether he should be required to attend the Magistrates’ Court, a near necessary pre-condition to get the case to the Crown Court where it will be dealt with.

There were three issues before the High Court :

1) Whether the finding by the District Judge (Magistrates’ Court) that Lord Janner was fit enough to attend the first appearance at Court

2) Whether it was wrong for the DJ to not give proper consideration to alternative ways to have the case transferred to the Crown Court

3) Whether forcing Lord Janner’s attendance was a breach of his Art 3 or 8 rights

The argument over (1) was hopeless. A Judge has a wide discretion, and the finding of fact was clearly not unreasonable. The Court addressed and dealt with the other two grounds, finding against Lord Janner in both.

Helpfully, the Court has given a written judgment which, as always is worth reading.

 

Comment

The conclusion on such a high profile case is not a surprise. It is clear that the case would continue.

As stated above, the finding on (1) was not a surprise. Equally, the argument relating to the ECHR (number 3) was always likely to fail.

Argument (2) however is not so clear cut. A voluntary bill of indictment is a rarely used procedure (the CPS website has a good overview of the law), but a perfectly respectable one.

It seems to me that the DJ was well within his rights last Friday to refuse to require the CPS to go down that route. And, as they point out, whether or not that could be done does not impact on whether a decision to require Lord Janner’s attendance was lawful.

However, the case being before the High Court as it was today, it would seem to have been lawful for one of the Judges to ‘prefer’ a Bill of Indictment at that point. As the defence had been asking for this, it is unlikely that they would have objected, and this would have saved time and money to achieve an outcome that will be done by a more complicated route in due course.

 

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Dan is a barrister at 2 Dr. Johnson’s Buildings practising in crime.

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