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.
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.
Police and Leicestershire County Council renewed their apologies on Tuesday, while the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) acknowledged “past failings in the way allegations made against Lord Janner were handled”.
Simon Cole, the Chief Constable of Leicestershire Police, said: “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.”
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 aged 87 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 CPS, as “unsound and strategically flawed”.
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.
John O’Brien, secretary to the inquiry, said there was no evidence of deference to Lord Janner, but said police simply did not take the alleged victims’ complaints seriously because they were in care.
He told the PA news agency: “All crimes deserve to be investigated properly, but child sexual abuse is a pretty heinous crime.
“To make a prejudgment that because somebody comes from a background or has been brought up a certain way they are not going to be credible is, in many ways, a more shocking finding than perhaps anything we expected.”
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.
Daniel Janner QC, son of Lord Janner, said the report “offers no proof whatsoever of guilt”.
He added of his father: “He was himself the victim of institutional failings because he was denied the ability (in court) while of sound mind prior to his dementia to defend himself and challenge the false allegations.”
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.
A fuller, redacted report will not be made public due to concerns its contents may identify any of the alleged victims, who are granted anonymity by law.
The final overarching IICSA report, taking in all 19 strands of the inquiry, is expected to be laid before Parliament next year.