Police appeared “reluctant” to investigate child sexual abuse allegations against Lord Greville Janner in a string of failings, an inquiry has found.
Leicestershire Police’s Operation Magnolia, which probed allegations against the former Labour MP in 1999, “was insufficient and seemingly involved a deliberate decision to withhold key witness statements from the Crown Prosecution Service”, according to The Independent Inquiry Into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).
The inquiry found the senior investigating officer and CPS lawyer involved in a second police probe, launched in 2006 after an alleged victim claimed he had been sexually abused by Janner and a number of other men, also appeared “reluctant to progress the investigation”.
It also found Leicestershire County Council to have had a “sorry record of failures” in relation to the sexual abuse of children in its care over several decades.
A number of council staff were aware of and had concerns about the former Leicester West MP’s association with a child in its residential care and further inquiries should have been made after these were raised with senior management, the inquiry concluded.
Lord Janner, who died in December 2015, was nominated for a peerage by then prime minister Tony Blair in 1997 – after he was initially investigated.
Mr Blair previously defended the decision, arguing Janner had denied the allegations and no charges were brought against him until shortly before his death.
At that time, nominations were scrutinised by the Political Honours Scrutiny Committee (PHSC). According to the inquiry, it is not possible to know if checks were made with any other government department or outside agency – but it found no evidence efforts were made to contact Leicestershire Police or the Crown Prosecution Service.
Professor Alexis Jay, chair of the inquiry, said the investigation brought up “extremely familiar” themes such as “deference to powerful individuals”.
He said in a statement: “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 enquiries.
“This investigation has brought up themes we are now extremely familiar with, 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.”
John O’Brien, secretary to the IICSA, said the inquiry did not find any “direct evidence” of deference to Janner, but that children in care were not taken seriously.
He told The Independent: “Throughout our investigations we’ve come across elements of that [deference].
“We’ve had no direct evidence of that in this case. In my view, we found something worse – which is, certainly on behalf of the two police investigations, a culture that said children from disadvantaged backgrounds in care don’t make credible witnesses and that coloured the way the investigation proceeded from that point.”
The inquiry’s latest report is based on 14 days of public hearings heard during October 2020. In total, it received information relating to 33 complainants, including details of their allegations against Lord Janner, which spanned three decades, and the outcome of the police investigation into those complaints.
The inquiry also received information from another complainant, but this was not included because the person has since died.
In 2012, Leicestershire Police launched Operation Enamel to examine whether there was any evidence which had not previously been considered by the two earlier police investigations.
New evidence emerged and additional complainants came forward. In June 2015, Lord Janner was charged with 22 offences of indecent assault and buggery relating to nine separate complainants.
The acts were said to have taken place between the mid-1960s and the late 1980s, when the complainants were all aged between eight and 16 years old.
Lord Janner, who denied all of the allegations against him, died in December 2015, bringing the criminal proceedings to an end.
Simon Cole, chief constable of Leicestershire Police, admitted Janner should have faced prosecution sooner than he did and vowed the force would “study the report scrupulously and examine it for any actions or improvements”.
He 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.”
Nick Rushton, leader of Leicestershire County Council, said the local authority “fully accepts” the report’s findings.
He said: “The council at the time simply did not do enough to keep the children in its care safe and, for that, I am sorry.
“Keeping children safe is one of our most important responsibilities and although no changes are recommended to be implemented immediately, we will study the report carefully. We remain committed to hearing and acting on the voice of children and continually improving the support we give to the children in our care.”