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15 January 2016, 14:26
Former Leicester MP Lord Janner's child sex abuse case has been formally dropped in light of the 87-year-old's death.
Legal proceedings were left in limbo last month following the announcement that the elderly peer had died.
This morning, prosecutor Richard Whittam QC told trial judge Mr Justice Openshaw that the Crown would not go ahead with the planned trial of facts at the Old Bailey in April.
Greville Janner was charged with 22 sexual offences dating back to the 1960s against nine alleged victims, who were mostly under 16 at the time.
He had already been declared unfit to stand trial due to his ``deteriorating and irreversible'' dementia.
Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Alison Saunders had originally decided that Lord Janner should not be charged with alleged child sex crimes because of his ill health.
But that was overturned by an independent review last year.
Following his death, the Crown Prosecution Service hinted at the possibility of carrying on with legal proceedings.
In a statement, the CPS said: ``When a defendant dies during criminal proceedings, it is usual that the case no longer goes ahead following formal confirmation of the defendant's death at a hearing before the court.
"However, we are considering the procedural implications of this specific case."
In a trial of the facts, a jury considers the evidence against an individual but there is no guilty verdict and the court cannot pass sentence.
All it can do is make a hospital order, a supervision order, or an order for the defendant's absolute discharge.
After Janner's death it was suggested that the case could be considered by the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse led by Justice Lowell Goddard instead.
Liz Dux, specialist abuse lawyer at Slater and Gordon, who represents six of Lord Janner's alleged victims, has said their priority was for a judicial finding of facts either through the criminal proceedings or via the Goddard Inquiry as soon as possible.
During the short hearing at the Old Bailey, Mr Whittam revealed that, at the time of Janner's death on December 19, the prosecution had an application pending to introduce a second tranche of charges.
Meanwhile, the defence were in the process of trying to get the case halted due to an ``abuse of process'', he said.
Announcing the decision not to proceed with the case, he told the senior judge, Mr Justice Openshaw, that a copy of the peer's death certificate had been produced for the court file.
He said: ``Death ordinarily brings proceedings to an end. There is no longer someone to convict or acquit.
``Even though the proceedings had reached a stage where Lord Janner was unfit to plead or stand trial, the proceedings are a creature of statute and the Act makes no provision for posthumous proceedings.''
He pointed out that the Goddard Inquiry had already announced in April last year that it would conduct a ``full investigation into the issues surrounding allegations of sexual abuse against the defendant''.
The judge said: ``There is nothing more to be said. That's the end of the proceedings, that the defendant is dead.''
Ms Dux, of Slater and Gordon, said: ``My clients are obviously devastated that they are no longer able to give their evidence in a criminal court.
``They understand the reasons why but that doesn't make up for the real travesty - that many gave their statements decades ago and have been denied justice through a failure to prosecute earlier when Janner was alive and well.
``They sincerely hope that the Goddard Inquiry will prioritise this matter, will allow them to give their evidence in person and will make findings of fact.
``It is vital that all the evidence that has painstakingly been gathered over the years is carefully considered by the independent inquiry and that findings of fact are made public.''
It has also been revealed that Leicestershire County Council could be investigated if found to have failed to protect vulnerable children in the area during the time of the alleged offences.
A Leicestershire County Council spokesperson said:
“We recognise that a legal process has ended but we are fully committed to co-operating with the Goddard Inquiry, to ensure that lessons are learnt and to minimise the chances of this kind of abuse from happening again.
“We have worked closely with the police on aspects of their investigation that related to historic abuse involving former county council children’s homes in the 1970s and 1980s, and will continue to do so. Since that period, the council has introduced a series of safeguards and procedures to strengthen the protection of children.
“As the inquiry process is now live, you will appreciate that we cannot comment further at this time.”