Thursday, 8 January 2015

The silence of Lord Greville Janner

According to British parliamentarian Lord Greville Janner of Braunstone there are some crimes so horrendous that the passage of time can do nothing to diminish them. So when a 90-year-old man said to be a former concentration camp guard called John Demjanjuck was sentenced to life to be quickly followed by the prosecution  of a 97-year-old Hungarian,  said to have deported Jews to Auschwitz,  Lord Janner expressed grim satisfaction.

"I don't care what bloody age they are," he told the Jewish Chronicle in 2011 "These criminals should have been dealt with years ago….no concessions to age or the time that has passed should be made for justice when it comes to crimes of this magnitude.” 

And Lord Janner does not lack for clout. As a former president or vice president of a glittering array of influential bodies including the British Board of Deputies, the World Jewish Congress, the All-Parliamentary Group Against Anti-Semitism and also chairman of the All-Parliamentary Britain-Israel group, he is used to being listened to.
But Janner’s words ring hollow now for the 84-year-old is citing his own ill-health and diminution of faculties to avoid being charged over his role in one of the most horrendous cases of organised child abuse of recent years in Britain.
He has been accused of raping 20 under-age boys as part of a paedophile ring who ran children’s homes in the English county of Leicestershire. Janner’s alleged role first emerged more than two decades ago, during the 1991 trial of a director of a children's home in Leicestershire called Frank Beck.
During the trial, Beck made a sensational accusation. He said “One child has been buggered and abused for two solid years by Greville Janner“. Another witness also told the court that Janner “regularly sodomised” him when he was in care aged 13.
Up till then the Leicestershire MP was held to be above approach. He was a married father of three, a pillar of both Anglo-Jewish life and the Labour Party. A product of one of Britain's finest private schools Janner went to Trinity Hall, Cambridge and was elected President of the Union.  He attended Harvard Law School before effectively inheriting his father's Labour constituency in Leicester. He was ennobled by Tony Blair in 1997.
However the evidence was persuasive. A letter was shown to the jury that was sent from Janner to the boy. The boy was able to describe Janner’s home, the bedrooms they shared and personal details of Janner’s habits. In addition another boy told the court that Janner, a member of the Magic Circle, would groom boys who had been impressed by his magic tricks.

At the time the Leicester detectives thought they had enough on Janner and were preparing to apprehend him, when, at the last minute his arrest was stopped from above without explanation.
Shortly afterwards, the Director of Public Prosecutions, a Jewish lawyer called Allan Green, let it be known that “for lack of evidence”, Janner would not be prosecuted and in the House of Commons his parliamentary colleagues rallied around him in a moving display of vocal cross- party support
Beck was found guilty and sentenced to twenty-four years in prison, with five life sentences to run concurrently. He died suddenly of a “heart attack”, shortly before his appeal was due to begin, protesting his innocence and Janner’s guilt till the end. 
And there it lay conveniently buried. Until now.  For recently Lord Janner has had the indignity of having his home and office raided by police who are investigating the events of 20 years ago.
So what changed?  The answer is the political climate and in particular a Scotland Yard investigation called Operation Yewtree "historic" sex abuse. From the outset the curious thing about Yewtree was the suspects; they were all family-friendly showbiz white males from the traditional and old-fashioned end of the spectrum, many of whom had spoken out for the Conservative Party.
 Women in their forties, fifties and older queued up to tell their lawyers had their lives had been ruined as teenagers when a dressing room visit or autograph session turned into a fate worse than death. The most lurid accusations centred on a DJ friend of Mrs Thatcher called Jimmy Savile who was conveniently deceased.
As the cases unfolded it quickly became obvious that the rules of rape investigation have changed somewhat. The question of why many women had waited in some cases more than three decades to tell their stories was not to be held against them. Nor was the lack of any forensic or witness evidence. 
Strangely no pop musician from the British beat boom onwards has ever been interviewed as whether anything untoward went on in the swinging sixties or later with one exception. Cliff Richard, whose house was raided this week, is notable in that he is both an outspoken supporter of both evangelical Christianity and traditional conservative family values.
So that is the background and it is here that the law of unintended consequences kicks in. For while new laws triggered new investigations it has inadvertently brought others back to life and this is where we return to Greville Janner. The resurrected investigation is now being handled not by the highly politicised Operation Yewtree detectives but by the same Leicestershire Police who are thought to harbour bitter memories of their original investigation being derailed.
One would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when a no-doubt convincingly crestfallen senior police officer had to explain to his political masters that consistency demanded that the Janner enquiry be re-opened. After all, they already had statements from 20 young victims - on the face of it the case was stronger than anything uncovered by Operation Yewtree. The testimony of those 20 witnesses from 20 years ago is surely at least as strong as that of 11 concentration camp survivors who identified John Demjanjuck after 70 years.
Sadly there is no chance that Lord Janner will, in the parlance of Scotland Yard, be getting his "collar felt" in the near future. A file has been submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service by the Leicester police but at least three doctors have already said he is unfit for trial and he is yet to be interviewed or cautioned by the police. It may be the very first time in his life he has chosen to stay silent.
For Lord Janner the whole affair has cast a shadow over a life filled with achievement. No-one has worked harder in seeking financial restitution for Holocaust victims. And it is his creation of the moneyspinning Holocaust Educational Trust that has earned him the everlasting gratitude of his community.
Two years ago he was fit enough to travel to Israel to receive his ultimate accolade from his people – the opening of a kindergarten named after him, attended by the British Ambassador, in Israel.  The honor of the naming of the Lord Greville Janner Education Centre in Galilee was a thank you for both his lifelong interest in the welfare of children and commitment to Israel and the Jewish people.

This article was written and submitted by Jake Grant

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