CPS change decision to prosecute Life Peer for historic Sexual Offences. The impact of the Victims’ right to review scheme.
On the 29th June the CPS made an announcement that Life Peer, Lord Graville Janner will face prosecution for 22 allegations of historic sexual abuse dating from 1963 to 1988. The decision has been particularly controversial given that in April 2015 the CPS set out in a comprehensive statement the reasons why they would not prosecute him; because it was not in the public interest.
That original decision was reversed following a review of the case under the CPS Victims’ Right to Review scheme, a relatively new initiative introduced in 2013. The scheme was introduced with the purpose of allowing those who are the alleged victims of crime to challenge a CPS decision either not to begin a prosecution or to terminate a prosecution that has already begun.
The Lord Janner decision is an example of the shift the CPS have made in recent years to try and put the needs and rights of those who are alleged victims of crimes in the forefront of their decision making.
The Victim’s Right to Review considers if the original decision made by the CPS is correct. If the conclusion is that it wasn’t then if it’s still possible, they will remedy it. The Review might well conclude that the decision was correct and can, if they think appropriate, release further information to the person challenging the decision so they are better informed as to how the decision was made.
It is understood that six complainants (those making allegations) against Lord Janner requested a review of the DPPs decision in April 2015 not to prosecute. David Perry QC undertook that review and concluded that it was in the public interest for proceedings to begin. Therefore the DPP reversed the decision not to prosecute and the first court appearance will be the 7th August.
In April 2015 the DPP set out the reasons for not prosecuting the life peer. Given the state of his health, the DPP concluded it was not in the public interest. It is understood that four doctors had assessed Lord Janner and confirmed he was suffering from dementia. Therefore the original conclusions were that in the event he was to face court proceedings, he would inevitably be found not fit to stand trial.
Interestingly the CPS have confirmed that the conclusion of the Review is that it is right to assume that Lord Janner will be inevitably be found unfit to enter a plea, instruct his legal team or challenge or give evidence at his trial. Therefore in all likelihood, he will be unfit to stand trial. If this should happen, what can take place is a trial of the facts, for a jury to be satisfied so that they are sure, that the offences were committed.
In terms of the law, both the DPP in making the original decision and the Review are in agreement. Where they disagreed is whether holding a trial of the facts (if of course the Peer is considered unfit to participate) was in the public interest. The review concluded that despite the DPP originally seeking assurance that the complainants would be given the opportunity to participate in a public enquiry under Justice Goddard, it was not a substitute for the adjudication of the courts.
If you would like to read more about how decisions to prosecute Rape and Sexual Offences are reached, please see our blog post. For further information on how decisions to prosecute are reached by the CPS please read our fact sheet.