Care home children let down by police and the state, Janner abuse inquiry finds

Children who reported being sexually abused by the late Labour grandee Lord Janner were “let down by institutional failings”, a damning inquiry into police, prosecution and social services responses to their allegations has concluded.

Oct 19, 2021
By Website Editor
Lord Janner, pictured here in 1987, was a Leicester MP and died in 2015

Leicestershire Police officers investigating decades of abuse claims against Lord Janner regularly “did not look beyond the often troubled backgrounds” of the alleged victims, who said they were abused in children’s homes in the county between the early 1960s and the late 1980s.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) accused Detective Superintendent Christopher Thomas, who led Operation Dauntless, the third police investigation into Lord Janner, of being “uninterested” in the allegations, while colleagues were “quick to dismiss” some testimonies.

Lord Janner, a Labour MP from 1970 until 1997 when he was made a peer in the House of Lords, was charged with 22 counts of child sexual abuse offences, relating to nine different boys, in 2015.

He died with dementia later that year while awaiting trial, and always denied the allegations.

Professor Alexis Jay, who is chairing the wide-ranging abuse inquiry, said: “Despite numerous serious allegations against the late Lord Janner, police and prosecutors appeared reluctant to fully investigate the claims against him.

“On multiple occasions police put too little emphasis on looking for supporting evidence and shut down investigations without pursuing all outstanding inquiries.”

She also said Leicestershire County Council had a “sorry record of failures” relating to abuse at children’s homes dating back to the 1960s.

The report described the decision-making of both Mr Thomas and Roger Rock, reviewing lawyer for the Crown Prosecution Service, as “unsound and strategically flawed”.

Professor Jay added: “This investigation has brought up themes we are now extremely familiar with (across the whole inquiry), such as deference to powerful individuals, the barriers to reporting faced by children and the need for institutions to have clear policies and procedures setting out how to respond to allegations of child sexual abuse, regardless of the prominence of the alleged abuser.”

More than 30 complainants were involved in the inquiry, with their lawyers describing how poor children in care were on a “conveyor belt to abuse”.

They alleged being seriously sexually abused in a range of locations, including schools, a flat in London, a hotel, Lord Janner’s car and the Houses of Parliament.

The report was particularly critical of Mr Thomas, the senior investigation officer in 2006.

It said: “Our overriding sense is that Det Supt Christopher Thomas was uninterested in this investigation, and his decisions to limit the inquiries undertaken appeared to be reflective of a wider failure to pursue the investigation with the rigour it deserved, rather than being motivated by a wish to protect Lord Janner or show him undue deference.”

The inquiry did not examine whether or not the allegations against Lord Janner were true.

But it found “crucial statements” in 2000’s Operation Magnolia police investigation were “brushed under the carpet”.

And it claimed police and prosecutors “appeared reluctant to progress” the subsequent Dauntless investigation.

Allegations against the former Leicestershire MP first emerged in the 1990s, although the Sir Richard Henriques report in 2016 found that failures by police and prosecutors meant three chances were missed to charge Lord Janner, in the 1990s and in operations Magnolia and Dauntless.

The inquiry also said Lord Janner should have been subject to scrutiny when he was nominated for a peerage by then-Prime Minister Tony Blair weeks after sweeping to power in 1997.

Previously, the investigation into MPs, peers and civil servants working at Westminster found political institutions “significantly failed in their responses to allegations of child sexual abuse”.

But it said there was no evidence of a “Westminster paedophile ring”, following allegations which kickstarted the multimillion-pound inquiry and later resulted in the prosecution of fantasist Carl Beech.

The final IICSA report, taking in all 19 strands of the inquiry, is expected to be laid before Parliament next year.

Responding to the report Leicestershire Police Chief Constable Simon Cole said: “On behalf of Leicestershire Police, firstly, I would like to reiterate the wholehearted apology I gave in February 2020 to any complainant whose allegations during earlier police investigations into Lord Janner were not responded to as they should have been.

“It is fair and correct to say that the allegations could and should have been investigated more thoroughly and Lord Janner could and should have faced prosecution earlier than 2015.

“I would like to thank the complainants involved in this Inquiry whose courage and determination have contributed to vital work in making recommendations to improve how public institutions respond in future.

“Leicestershire Police has participated fully and openly with the Inquiry since it began. Serving and retired officers attended the hearings remotely last October. The force provided thousands of documents and devoted significant resource in order that the Inquiry could consider thoroughly, having shared all we knew, the actions of officers at Leicestershire Police and the organisations they engaged with to make decisions in past investigations.

“We will now analyse the report’s detail carefully. We will positively and proactively review the findings in line with the force’s policies, processes and performance today. Furthermore, we will work with partners also mentioned in the report to find any further improvements.

“The inquiry heard and the report notes that a fourth investigation into Lord Janner by Leicestershire Police, named Operation Enamel, resulted in 22 charges being brought against the former Member of Parliament. Following Lord Janner’s death in December 2015, those charges were discontinued.

“We believe Operation Enamel demonstrated then, more than six years ago, a clear commitment and determination to pursue allegations of current or historic abuse against children. That unstinting commitment continues today. Reports of abuse are taken extremely seriously by Leicestershire Police. The force has a dedicated Child Abuse Investigation Unit. Preventing and tackling sexual offences, child sexual abuse and criminal exploitation are key priorities. We review and improve our work continuously wherever and whenever we can.

“I would like to acknowledge again the bravery and candour of the complainants who have contributed to this long and challenging Inquiry which must have caused significant anxiety and suffering. With them in mind, Leicestershire Police will study the report scrupulously and examine it for any actions or improvements.”

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