Lord Janner’s lawyers claim forcing him to attend court is ‘breach of human rights’
- Credit: Archant
Lawyers for Lord Janner will argue that forcing him to attend court to face child abuse charges despite suffering from dementia breaches his human rights, a judge has heard.
The former Labour peer and MP, whose home in West Heath Road, Hampstead, was raided by police investigating the allegations in 2013, has been ordered to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Friday to face 22 charges spanning a period from the 1960s to the 1980s.
But Janner’s lawyers told Senior District Judge Howard Riddle today they are taking the case to the High Court, arguing that forcing the 87-year-old to attend court in person is unlawful.
They say Janner, who has Alzheimer’s Disease, will suffer “considerable distress and harm” from his court appearance which will violate his rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Janner’s legal team are expected to apply to the court for an order that Friday’s hearing should not go ahead pending a judicial review of the decision that he must attend.
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Paul Ozin, defending Janner, told Westminster Magistrates’ Court: “We have heard medical evidence that Lord Janner is a particularly vulnerable person likely to suffer an extreme reaction to an environment which is unfamiliar.
“Steps taken to get Lord Janner to court would undoubtedly cause distress for Lord Janner’s family ... which would be wholly unnecessary if the High Court concludes the decision of this court is unlawful.
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“If his family are required to take steps which will undoubtedly cause Lord Janner considerable distress and harm, that is a violation of his Article 8 rights.”
Janner did not have to attend today’s hearing. Last Friday his lawyers said he was too ill to attend the court for a first hearing in the case and argued he may suffer a “catastrophic reaction” if made to appear in future.
The case is listed for a hearing at the High Court on Thursday afternoon before two judges.
Judge Riddle ruled that Janner was still expected to attend Friday’s hearing despite his lawyers’ application to the High Court.
“I’m not prepared to adjourn the hearing,” he said. “The hearing will remain listed in this court at 10am on Friday morning. As things stand Lord Janner is expected to attend.”
Judge Riddle said two alternative settings for the hearing - Wood Green Crown Court, which is closer to Janner’s home, and another room at Westminster Magistrates’ Court - had not been accepted by Janner’s lawyers.
The judge added that court staff would now make arrangements for Janner’s appearance at the hearing which was “likely to take less than a minute”.
“I’m satisfied the journey to this court is reasonable and arrangements can be made for the defendant to come into court with as little distress as can be expected in view of his condition,” he said.
Judge Riddle told the court that Janner can be accompanied at Friday’s hearing by a member of his family, a professional nurse and a member of his legal team.
“I make it clear that if there are live proceedings at the High Court on Friday affecting the possible attendance of Lord Janner at these proceedings than his attendance will be not be expected,” he went on.
“The court will nevertheless convene to consider the appropriate next steps.”
Judge Riddle said he had attempted to resolve all matters before Friday’s hearing but the defence “have not wanted to cooperate with that process”.
“There will therefore be no further applications on Friday if Lord Janner returns,” he added. “If the requirement remains for Lord Janner to attend and he does not attend, then I will be expecting the Crown to make suggestions how best to proceed.
“If that is by means of an application for a warrant - and I do not say one way or another if it should be - but if it is, the judge sitting on that occasion will want to know what special measures have been made by the Crown to enforce one.”