The news yesterday that the Crown Prosecution Service has decided that it would not be in the public interest for Lord Janner to face prosecution for alleged sexual offences committed more than two decades ago because of his state of his health raises many difficult topics.
The decision has been criticised by the police and the clear implication has been given by many public comments and reactions, seemingly including those of the CPS itself, that there exists sufficient evidence (at the very least) to justify ‘a case to answer’.
On the other hand, of course, there is the fundamental principle of law that every individual is innocent until proven guilty. By that yardstick Lord Janner is innocent and will remain so forever thanks to a sad quirk of fate, which is a perfectly reasonable way of describing the unfortunate onset of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Another fundamental principle of law is that justice must be seen to be done.
But whose justice? Those sympathetic to Lord Janner will maintain that he is innocent and – in these current circumstances – at least he has received justice in law. Simultaneously, inevitably, they might have a right also to argue that – in another sense – he will now never receive justice. Denied the opportunity to appear in court and be found ‘not guilty’, the reputation of Lord Janner and his family will now be forever tainted in the court of public opinion by these latest developments.
However, the victims of the alleged offences of which he is accused may also feel that they have been badly served by ‘justice’ in this instance.
Similarly, they will have no ‘day in court’ opportunity to confront the supposed instigator of their alleged treatment and abuse, thereby also losing their right to justice and what these days is termed ‘closure’. [This statement, of course, assumes that had the case been heard by a jury Lord Janner would have been found guilty].
It’s a tricky situation that satisfies nobody but – from where I’m sitting – I can see no solution.
For some reason, when I came to my PC this morning, two incidents relating to dementia came to my mind.
The first was the media report this week that an elderly American gentleman who had sex with his dementia-afflicted wife has been accused of rape on the grounds that, in her state, she was incapable of consenting to the act.
The second was the infamous case of Ernest Saunders, one of the ‘Guinness Four’ convicted of fraudulently manipulating the Guinness share price and sentenced to five years in prison, later reduced on appeal to two and a half years. He was then released after serving just ten months, having satisfied a judge that he was suffering from pre-senile dementia associated from (incurable) Alzheimer’s. Miraculously, soon afterwards he completely recovered his health and went on to continue his business career as a consultant, not least with Carphone Warehouse, for many years.