For the Jewish Chronicle by Jenni Frazer Feb 2 2017
At his home in north London, Daniel Janner sits in front of a bulging file filled to the brim with information about the sex abuse allegations against his father, the late Lord Janner.
The case has been tough for Mr Janner and his family, and he admits he “can’t let it go”.
To date, 33 separate allegations of historical child sexual abuse have been made against the peer, who died in December 2015 after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. The Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (IICSA) is investigating the claims.
The Janner family — Daniel and his sisters, Laura Janner-Klausner, Senior Rabbi of the Reform Movement, and Marion Janner, a mental health campaigner — insist their father was “entirely innocent of any wrongdoing”.
Mr Janner is by turns passionate and angry, and warmly sympathetic when he speaks about his father and the allegations against him.
A QC — who is himself acting as defence counsel in a historical sexual abuse case this week — he says he copes with the trauma the family has suffered by treating the claims against his father as “just another case,” before quickly acknowledging: “But, of course, it’s not just another case”.
He describes the IICSA, now on its fourth chairman, as “shambolic and discredited” and “a national joke”. The only reason it has not been kicked into the dustbin of history, he claims, is because it was set up by Theresa May when she was Home Secretary in 2014.
When the allegations were made public against their much-loved grandfather, the younger members of the family were distraught, he says. “Why aren’t people speaking out more for him,” one of the grandchildren asked.
Mr Janner is confident that the Jewish community — particularly the Holocaust Educational Trust and the Commonwealth Jewish Council, both of which were founded by Lord Janner, and the Board of Deputies, where he was president from 1979 to 1985 — will answer the family’s call to mark his life in a formal way.
“We have had tremendous support from the community,” Mr Janner says, “and I am certain that organisations such as HET would be ready to participate in a memorial service for my father and to establish an annual HET lecture in his name.
“He was the greatest communal leader the country has ever known, and that needs to be recognised”.
Interestingly, the HET did not respond to two requests for a comment.
The defining characteristic of Greville Janner was, says his son, “loyalty and a fight for justice. That was his whole being, something he fought for all his life. Dad would never have misplaced the trust of the community. He was a wonderful father and a wonderful husband — and he was innocent.”
Antisemitism may have had a role to play in the situation the family have found themselves in, he believes.
Hard-core antisemites “love the ‘Jew-paedo’ theme,” he says. “You only need to look at Twitter to see how they have used this against us. Antisemites and anti-Zionists are using it as a weapon”.
But he suggests the new complainants who have made allegations against his father are motivated not by antisemitism, but by greed.
The allegations have been made “with the intention of making fraudulent claims for compensation”, he says, adding that the family have seen both evidence of collusion among the complainants and evidence of complainants making false accusations against others, as well as complainants who are reported as having criminal convictions.
He adds: “Of course, I am focusing on Dad’s strand and on getting that removed from the inquiry, because its remaining there is a stain on the credibility of the whole thing.
“But there are genuine complainants — and the inquiry as presently constituted risks undermining the integrity of these genuine victims of abuse”.
This week, the Janner family were granted “core participation status” in the inquiry, something they had campaigned for.
In a statement, the siblings said the move would “finally enable our family to express our outrage that the inquiry has selected our innocent late father as a separate strand of his own, especially given that all the other strands are about institutions.”
Responding to the decision, Mr Janner says the family is taking core participation status, “not to legitimise the process, but it enables us to intensify our wholehearted opposition to this unjust strand and to fight this iniquitous inquiry, both outside and also within it.”
The family also want to take part in the civil case brought by the complainants — “we will cross-examine them, and we will win,” says Mr Janner.
The allegations against Lord Janner of Braunstone, who was made a Labour peer by Tony Blair in 1997, date back to 1991. The then Greville Janner was an MP for Leicester West, a seat he held between 1970 and 1997.
As Mr Janner recounts, the initial allegations were made by Frank Beck, “a man who was to be convicted of very serious sexual offences. He colluded with a young man, whom we looked after as a family, to make false and fraudulent allegations against my late father, to make a false defence at trial.
“Both the young man, ‘W’, and Beck were cross-examined by the prosecution and they were disbelieved at trial. Beck was convicted and got three life sentences.”
Together with two other men, “W” renewed his allegations in 2004 and 2007.
Mr Janner says: “Those allegations were looked into by the CPS and the police and were promptly discounted. That is the case. Since 2013, there has been an ever increasing number of false complainants who have been seeking what is known in prison culture as ‘compo’ — compensation — against a person who is vulnerable because they are ill, or dead.”
All the allegations come from Leicester, which, says Mr Janner, is suspect in itself “as my father looked after men and women, employing them as research assistants, often in the community [in London] for his whole life.
“The 1991 and the 2004 and 2007 allegations relate to when he was an MP and the three of them [his first accusers] were in care homes.
“Now, of course, the allegations become wilder and more exaggerated and go beyond when he was an MP”.
Frank Beck died in prison in 1994 but “W”, the principal accuser, was convicted of paedophilia in 2001 and given a four-year prison sentence.
Separately, says Mr Janner, “he made allegations of having been sexually abused in Scotland but in March 2016 the Scottish authorities threw these claims out.
“‘W’ also made allegations against Barbara Fitt, a care worker in one of the Leicester care homes, that she had sexually abused him. She vigorously denied these allegations and has now died. ‘W’ is a very bad person. He is now in his 50s; he and the other original two made outrageous allegations [against Lord Janner] which were patently false”.
Lord Janner, when still an MP, had robustly rebutted the 1991 allegations against him, but by the time the renewed allegations arose in 2013 he was suffering from severe dementia.
The retired High Court judge Sir Richard Henriques was asked by the CPS to conduct an independent inquiry into the handling of allegations; he concluded that a decision not to charge him in 1991 was wrong and that there was sufficient evidence against him to arrest him in 2007.
However, Mr Janner now says that Sir Richard was “not in possession of all the facts. He didn’t know about ‘W’s’ convictions, or about his false allegations against Barbara Fitt”.
Sir Richard told the Mail on Sunday that the false claims against Mrs Fitt should have figured in the 1991 charging decision.
When the allegations surfaced in 1991, they were greeted by the Janner family “with total disbelief. As my father said, there was not a shred of evidence, not a shred of doubt. We knew they would be thrown out, which they were.
“We never thought about it again, until 2013 when his home was searched — by which time he had Alzheimer’s.”
He was dying, says his son, and could not defend himself.
“After the Jimmy Savile case, the police and the CPS were caught in a perfect storm, and have changed their approach so that a ‘victim’ is always believed. They don’t carry out any assessments, to find out about a complainant’s previous convictions, for example. They just say, let the courts sort it out — which is why the courts are so backed up now.
“The ‘evidence’ is now the allegation”.
But for Savile, Mr Janner believes, the renewed allegations against his father would never have surfaced — or been given credence.
But there had been a “national frenzy” in the wake of the Savile case — and “police officers who believe allegations, no matter how horrific they are — and the allegations against my late father are of the most horrendous kind, vicious and sadistic.”
He likens what has happened to the Salem witch trials — with allegations blindly believed while the accused person has no opportunity to defend themselves.
“I’m fighting this,” says Mr Janner, “not only because he was my loving father whom I adored for nearly 60 years, but because I’ve read the evidence. I’ve seen these manifest lies.
“People say ‘no smoke without fire’, and ‘yeah, yeah, he would say that’, but I have no doubt about his innocence.”
Among such evidence is the most serious allegation against Lord Janner, relating to August 16-19 1987, when he is accused of having raped and tortured a boy in a London hotel.
But, he says, Lord Janner’s passport, which has now been provided to the inquiry, shows that he was in Australia on those
Mr Janner draws a parallel between his father’s case and that of the late Lord Brittan, who was also accused of child sexual abuse. “Both were ill, both were Jewish, and both had scurrilous allegations swirling around them throughout their political careers.
“When Operation Midland [the collapsed police investigation into claims of abuse by public figures] went belly-up, all they were left with was my father.
“But the critical thing is the golden rule of British justice is that a man is presumed innocent until proven guilty. In the case of my father, for all the allegations, and for all the people who don’t like Jews or who don’t like HET or any of the other organisations he was involved with, the inconvenient truth is that in the eyes of the law, he will always be innocent.”
The family has had “fantastic support” from some members of the community, says Mr Janner. He singles out Lord Pannick, who spoke about his father in the House of Lords. “But the problem for the community, as it was for us, is at what stage do you come out and recognise his work. Until we had the evidence, people would say, well, they would say that, wouldn’t they?”
Now, he says, it is time for the organisations with which his father worked and founded to celebrate Greville Janner’s community contribution.
“I am certain they would like to do it. They must accept the truth of his innocence”.