Leicester

Goddard Inquiry: Lord Janner hearings delayed until March

Lord Janner Image copyright PA
Image caption Lord Janner, who suffered from dementia, died in December 2015

Public hearings into allegations of abuse relating to Lord Janner have been delayed by six months.

The labour peer, who died in December, was accused of sex offences against children - which his family deny.

The hearings, part of the Goddard Inquiry into child sexual abuse, were due to start in September but have been put back because of other inquiries.

Leicestershire Police and the IPCC are investigating people allegedly linked to the case.

The Goddard Inquiry, chaired by Dame Lowell Goddard, set to be the biggest public inquiry in British history, held a preliminary hearing earlier for its investigation into the former Leicester MP, one of 13 cases it has announced so far.

On Monday, the IPCC announced 11 people are to be investigated over their handling of allegations against the peer.

Announcing the delay Ben Emmerson QC, counsel to the inquiry, said there are "good reasons to reconsider on timing and structure of the hearings."

Image copyright John Stillwell
Image caption Lord Janner is alleged to have committed a number of offences

He said the Leicestershire force and the IPCC (Independent Police Complaints Commission) will soon interview complainants and witnesses who are also scheduled to give evidence.

Postponement was "only responsible" in the circumstances, meaning the public hearings will now commence on 7 March 2017 and conclude by the end of May.

Mr Emmerson revealed 33 alleged victims of Lord Janner have now been granted core participant status in the inquiry, meaning they have the right to make statements, see documents and seek permission to ask questions.

Seven organisations and institutions, including the Labour Party, have previously been given the same status, which has also been granted to two individual police officers, including current Derbyshire chief constable Mick Creedon, who investigated Lord Janner for the Leicestershire force in the early 1990s.

The inquiry has not received an application for core participant status from Lord Janner's family, but Mr Emmerson said there was "ongoing correspondence with their legal representatives".

There have been suggestions from the family, Mr Emmerson said, that it would be "unfair" for the inquiry to make findings of fact because Lord Janner is unable to defend himself and alleged victims will not be subject to cross-examination.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The family of Lord Janner deny the allegations against him

He said that in some cases it will be necessary to make findings of fact but only if it was fair to do based on the evidence.

On the issue of cross-examination, Mr Emmerson said the inquiry is an inquisitorial process rather an adversarial one, but that he, as counsel, could still nevertheless explore the credibility of witnesses.

In a statement, the peer's lawyer said: "Lord Janner was an honourable man, entirely innocent and never convicted of any crime."

The hearing, at the Royal Courts of Justice, was also told the Goddard Inquiry as a whole has so far received disclosure of 35,000 documents and is receiving up to 100 communications from the public each week.

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