This debate took place during my Christmas break. I am posting some powerful speeches criticising the beyond-farcical IICSA for including Janner in its inquiry, and highlighting the injustice already meted out to him by the “We Believe” mantra.
Janner’s lead accuser is a convicted sex offender (well, of course he is). The cases of Heath and Bishop Bell are also discussed. Lord Winston speaks of the dangers of false memory.
So read on……
Moved by Lord Campbell-Savours
To move that this House takes note of the remit of, and arrangements for the handling of evidence by, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.
Lord Campbell-Savours Labour
My Lords, we all welcome the IICSA inquiry. Unfortunately, an early start was hampered by chairmanship difficulties, and a seamless process under the Inquires Act has become mired in controversy with the disbandment of panels, the removal of chairmen, a churn in staff and questions over remit.
The original remit was to consider, “whether and to what extent public bodies and other institutions have taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sex abuse and seek to address public concern over failings exposed by appalling cases of organised and persistent child sexual abuse”. All very laudable. However, I have a fundamental objection to the inquiry’s management. It gives credence to hearsay and allows for the presumption of guilt in the court of public opinion. It should confine itself to considering only cases where guilt has been established in a court. Without due process the door is open to huge injustice and the trashing of reputations, and is an affront to every tenet of natural justice I have nurtured over a lifetime.
Today I intend to examine one case where justice has been stretched to breaking point—that of Greville Janner, a former MP. This is the case of a man with an exemplary record of public service who, during the trial of a children’s home manager and convicted paedophile—a man with a grudge against the MP—was accused of assaulting a child. The grudge led to an accusation against Janner, but following an investigation, Janner was neither arrested nor charged. Decades later he was again investigated, without being interviewed, and again not arrested. To cap it all, following legitimate public outcry over other such cases, he was then singled out in his dying days as a person who would have been prosecuted if he had not been suffering from dementia.
To understand the background to the Janner case we have to return over 70 years, to 1947, when the multilingual and brilliant young man Janner, aged 17 and Jewish, was sent to post-war Germany to help in investigating war crimes and to work in the kinderheim at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. His role was the rehabilitation and mentoring of gravely damaged child survivors of the Holocaust. This experience would haunt Janner over a lifetime. It determined his politics and accounts for his attitude throughout his life to underprivileged children from broken homes. Those who find such experiences difficult to comprehend should read his biography—because it is all there.
As Janner’s godson Nigel Cohen messaged the family on Janner’s death,
“He always tried to help children who needed help. I discussed with him a number of times the risks he exposed himself to by helping people he hardly knew. He always replied simply, they need my help. He refused to be bowed by what others might say”.
The fact is that Janner was an easy target for underprivileged accusers—many of whom had a long history of criminal activity and repeat offending reaching well back into their early years. As I reflect, I almost perceive in Janner a gentle naivety.
One such person was a young lad I will call Anthony, who, in the 1970s, lived in a Leicester children’s home run by a man called Beck. In 1991, while being prosecuted for the rape of children in his care, Beck interrupted his own trial by, during proceedings, abruptly accusing Janner of child abuse. Until then, no one had ever accused Janner of sexual misconduct. The accusation came out of the blue and was soon followed by Anthony claiming to be a victim. When a former High Court judge, Henriques, wrote the report that partly led to IICSA, it is noticeable that he failed to reveal that Anthony had a history of lying and sex offending.
Of course, the Henriques report was one in a series of inquiries and reports into Janner, all of which I have read. Uncharacteristically for Henriques, its flaw was its total failure to understand the significance of the complainants’ backgrounds, criminal pasts and motivations in seeking financial compensation. It is worth noting that not one of the listed complainants, almost all of whom were party to civil actions for damages, received compensation from the Janner estate. Indeed, they have withdrawn their actions on legal advice, perhaps believing that IICSA’s findings can rescue their claims. We do not know the number of people making claims under discredited sexual offences compensation arrangements, a scheme paying out on the balance of probabilities, often without a court decision. That scheme, which cost the taxpayer more than £40 million last year, is institutionally unworldly, in my view. Even the infamous “Nick”, of Ted Heath fame, managed to take the scheme for a ride. Furthermore, it refuses detailed scrutiny under FOIs. Following the “Nick” trial, I believe that it should be reviewed.
Any detailed study of the Janner case inevitably takes us back to the inquiries and what has gone wrong in the justice system. The Beck and Anthony interventions led to the police investigations. It is obvious that the police failed in their task. They failed to interview individuals who were critical to the findings the CPS needed in determining whether action should be brought against Janner. Equally, those of us who question the validity of accusations believe that more detailed inquiries would have exposed the calculated dishonesty at the heart of claims—a fact already established adequately. We do not need an IICSA inquiry to tell us what we already know. I believe that if real evidence had been found, the time to charge Janner was in 1991; but of course, it was not found. To end up here 20 years later, and over 40 years after the alleged events, is a travesty of justice, but that is what has happened.
Operation Enamel was set up in 2014, drawing on the memory of accusers—compensation in mind—from 40 years previously. It does not surprise me that Leicestershire Police refused my FOI application for access to this damning report, as it would have exposed its incompetence. As Henriques wisely put it in paragraph 2.60 of his report:
“The Chief Crown Prosecutor understandably accepts that it is impossible to recollect details of events some twenty four years ago”.
In paragraph 2.70, in relation to accuracy over the timing of a meeting, he states:
“There are any number of possible innocent explanations not least the passage of time”.
If it is difficult to recollect events from 24 years ago, how credible are recollections made after 40 years?
Two factors clearly influenced the police investigation. First, while in prison, Beck had shared a cell with a man called Norman Newall. Beck had confided in Newall. They were close, having known each other for years. In June 1991, Newall revealed in a statement to police that Beck had made a comprehensive confession to him, admitting committing buggery with boys and girls, having sex with numerous children and giving children a good thumping. Also, I have seen a statement that he was going to plead “not guilty” and drag all the top people in. He got one of the kids to say that Greville Janner had taken him to Scotland and buggered him. When asked by Beck’s cell mate if it was true, Beck had replied that it was not but would throw the light off him. He had gone on to say that he was sure the kid would stand up, and he had three newspapers on his side. The kid did stand up; it is Anthony who stands at the heart of this case.
What is interesting about this admission is that Henriques qualifies the Newall statement, stating:
“I have also noted an antecedent history of formidable proportions”.
That was not said in the case of Anthony, a man with an equal record. Nevertheless, I believe that Newall’s statement, and those of others, was key to non-prosecution in 1991. The CPS clearly feared that Newall’s statement would collapse a trial.
Another factor was Anthony’s wider record, which Henriques either ignored or failed to have in mind. We do not know whether a devastating social services report on Anthony was ever made available to the police, or even Henriques. That report may well have influenced both the police and the CPS. Another consideration may have been the police’s knowledge of Anthony’s criminal background. We now know that Anthony was convicted on three separate counts of sexual assault, serving four years in prison. His allegations of sexual assault in Scotland were dismissed as false and his accusations of sexual activity with social worker Barbara Fitt, a woman with a 16-year unblemished record, were dismissed as fantasy.
He is also reported as having forced a six year-old child into oral sex, having exposed himself and masturbated in front of a minor—I am sorry to use these terms but they have to come out—and theft. This man is described as a core participant, and therefore potentially a witness before the inquiry. That is an outrage. Can I be assured that if the Janner strand is foolishly allowed to remain in the inquiry, Members will see all the reports? I must emphasise that there is no mention of any complaint against Janner in the social service record of any complainant, despite many complaints against Beck and others.
So, where do we stand now? I believe that the Janner strand—the lead strand in the IICSA inquiry—is an affront to justice. I want to know why IICSA insists on maintaining that strand. We need to know why. The strand is likely to make findings of fact on contested allegations that Janner cannot challenge from the grave. That is at the heart of my objection. The strand is based on an assumption of being guilty until proven innocent—something rejected by the Janner family. I am concerned that my letters to IICSA on these matters are being replied to by not its chairman but its solicitor, who was not in place when the Janner strand was announced. The chairman is accountable, not the lawyers. I am concerned that little account is being taken of memory loss. I believe that IICSA has no understanding whatsoever of the reputational damage to the Janner family in the court of public opinion if, behind the cloak of anonymity, unsubstantiated and unchallenged claims are made in open hearings.
I am concerned that both the Henriques and Enamel reports, while questioning the veracity of statements supportive of Janner, give unquestioned credence to those of the accusers. I am not sure there is any understanding of Janner’s mentoring relationships with deprived children, arising out of his post-war experience. In Parliament, we knew of it; others would never understand it. It was so open to exploitation. I am concerned about how the statutory compensation scheme is attracting false accusations. I am not convinced that IICSA’s panel is aware of the dangers of anti-Semitism when, on the back of unchallenged accusations, it effectively put a leading member of the Jewish community on trial. Be of no doubt: it is the court of public opinion that matters here. I can tell the House that I, a gentile, would never sit on such a panel in any circumstances—not that I would ever be asked—if only because its worthy remit is now tainted by the stench of injustice. I am so sorry to have to use such a word.
Lord Hunt of Wirral Conservative 3:29 pm, 20th December 2018
My Lords, I draw attention to my interests declared in the register, in particular my tenure as honorary chair of the Sir Edward Heath Charitable Foundation until earlier this year. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, on securing this debate and associate myself with all the points he so eloquently and passionately made.
We all of course accept the need for the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse. We also all accept the need for it to be operationally independent, just as we accept the need for the police to be operationally independent. However, this does not mean that such bodies are entitled to rewrite their own remits, nor that we as parliamentarians should stand by and watch silently as manifest instances of injustice occur. There must be no power without responsibility. That would negate every precious principle of the rule of law.
I will first deal with the allegations made against the late Sir Edward Heath and their relationship, such as it is, to IICSA. In the wake of the deeply unsatisfactory Operation Conifer, Wiltshire Police deliberately and knowingly left seven accusations against Sir Edward Heath hanging in the air. It would, it claimed, have sought to interview Sir Edward under caution about those seven accusations had he still been alive.
I understand that at no cost to the hard-pressed taxpayer—what a breath of fresh air that is—a certain amount of further research has just been undertaken that has swiftly put at least three of those accusations to the sword. If we were allowed to know more about the accusations, I am confident that the others could be dispatched just as easily. Any remaining shadow or taint on the name of Ted Heath—slight though it now is, for I know of no one credible who believes a word of it—would be laid to rest once and for all.
As the then chair of the Heath foundation, in 2017 I had to consider whether the foundation should apply for core participant status with IICSA. I had my doubts, given that the accusations against Ted Heath had already been so widely discredited. Others of my colleagues, however, made the valid point that core participant status might give the trustees privileged access to more information about the accusations, which could be vital as we all sought to disprove them.
So I went for a meeting at IICSA. It became clear during the course of that meeting that establishing the likely guilt or innocence of individuals was outside the inquiry’s remit. This was subsequently confirmed publicly by the inquiry and in correspondence with me. It has been the stated view of IICSA all along, considering its remit and the first-class legal advice to which it has access, that investigating the truth or otherwise of allegations of child sexual abuse against individual parliamentarians would be neither necessary nor proportionate for the inquiry. I was reassured that there would be no kangaroo court. I quickly concluded that the disadvantages of core participant status far outweighed any possible advantages. No one in their right mind believed that Ted Heath was guilty of these supposed crimes, so there would be no good purpose at all in the foundation associating itself publicly with IICSA.
Subsequently, we have found ourselves in a ludicrous impasse where everyone agrees that someone impartial with judicial authority should examine the seven remaining accusations against Ted Heath, but no one is willing to initiate such an inquiry. The police and crime commissioner for Swindon and Wiltshire, Angus Macpherson, has repeatedly said that he too accepts that there should be such an inquiry, but he has consistently refused to fund it. In 2017, he wrote to IICSA asking it to take on responsibility for establishing whether there was any substance to the accusations. I must confess I found this a shameful abrogation of responsibility and felt confident that, when it came, the answer from IICSA would be pretty dusty, and so it proved. Quite rightly and properly, IICSA has declined Mr Macpherson’s request to undertake a line of investigation for which it would lack statutory authority. The Inquiries Act 2005 does not empower an inquiry such as IICSA to commission a review of accusations by a retired judge. It is also not for such an inquiry to establish the likely innocence or guilt of any individual.
So who will commission a suitable inquiry? That question remains hanging and the reputation of a former Prime Minister unjustifiably continues to carry the faintest of taints. Do I need to say more? I know that the Minister has already had a taste of the strength of feeling in this House on all sides, so perhaps I should just move on for now.
That brings me to the question that inspired this debate: the so-called Janner strand of IICSA. Here I must declare an interest, not in the formal, parliamentary sense, but as an individual. I knew Greville Janner well. I do not believe for one moment that he was guilty of offences against children. I shall never forget the day when I finally left the Cabinet in 1995 to return to my law firm as senior partner and found Greville Janner waiting for me. He said, “David, you were chair of the parliamentary committee against anti-Semitism and racism. It’s time for you to return to that role”. I worked closely with him for many years, particularly with the Holocaust Educational Trust. I now have the great honour of being the HET’s vice-president.
Far more important than the opinion of one individual, so far as Greville Janner is concerned, is the fact that the law of the land declares him innocent. The accusations against him have been thoroughly investigated several times and found to be without foundation. Civil cases against him and his estate, with a far lower bar of proof than criminal cases, have also completely collapsed. Yet he is now principally commemorated not for his tireless work on behalf of Holocaust victims, nor for his long and distinguished political career, but as a strand of IICSA.
Implicitly, even explicitly, by naming a strand after Greville Janner, as well as giving privileged platforms to those who make wild, unsubstantiated claims about him, IICSA, in advance of its own hearings, has publicly proclaimed his guilt.In doing so, it has surely breached its own guiding principle. It is simply ludicrous to equate one man, against whom nothing has been proven, with major state and non-state institutions. Without the benefit of trial, IICSA has trashed the good name of Greville Janner. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, has set out a persuasive—some would say overwhelming—case for the defence. Why has this case fallen on deaf ears with IICSA?
Unfortunately, it is inevitable that all such inquiries with open-ended budgets, wide remits and sensitivity to public scrutiny and criticism are vulnerable to “mission creep”. The so-called Janner strand suggests that IICSA may already have succumbed.
Numerous institutions in this country have failed to protect vulnerable children from the vile attentions of sexual predators. That is to our shame as a nation, and we must do everything we can both to help genuine victims to heal and to prevent further such abuse.
IICSA certainly has a job to do. However, that job does not require it, enable it or empower it to make definitive judgments on the innocence or guilt of individuals. That is a matter for the courts. Rightly, IICSA has absolved itself of any responsibility for considering the credibility of the seven accusations against Sir Edward Heath. Why, then, does it treat Greville Janner differently? That must be the question on which I hope my noble friend the Minister will give us an answer. Why may his name be sullied in this arbitrary fashion? This is not just about the good names of two men, both notable public servants; it is also about the very nature of our nation and our society.
The principle of someone being innocent until proven guilty is the foundation stone of the rule of law, all our freedoms and surely our very way of life. That principle is every bit as important for the dead as it is for the living. While retaining their cherished operational independence, police forces and independent inquiries such as IICSA must be ever mindful of that fact or no one’s reputation will ever be safe again.
In matters of justice, the buck ultimately stops here with us. I hope my noble friend the Minister can provide some reassurance that, even in death, Sir Edward Heath, Greville Janner and others who have been subject to unproven accusations are entitled to justice and untainted reputations.
Lord Lexden Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords) 3:48 pm, 20th December 2018
My Lords, one of the great merits of this most welcome debate, for which we are indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, is that it helps to focus attention again on a serious issue with which, like the noble Lord and other participants in this debate, I have been much preoccupied in the last few years. It is one that the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse will need to bear carefully in mind as it goes about its work, for reasons that we have already heard. The issue is well-known: it is the failure of the Church as well as of the state to accord, at all times and in all places, full and equal respect to the legal rights of both the alleged abuser and the complainant in cases of child sex abuse.
The House considered the injustices that can arise in a debate that I initiated in June two years ago. The cause of this deeply troubling state of affairs is equally well-known: it arises from the view, so widely held in recent years among the police and in the Church of England too, that the complainant should not only be heard seriously and respectfully but should almost always be believed. Because, for so many years, complainants were brushed aside or disbelieved, the police and the Church, among others, have rushed to the other extreme and given almost automatic credence to complainants at the expense of alleged abusers.
As a result, as my noble friend Lord Hunt of Wirral said, the cardinal legal principle, so long established in our country as one of the bedrocks of our liberties—that those against whom crimes are alleged must be regarded as innocent until proved guilty—has been compromised, sometimes perilously so. Grave injustice has been done to many people: some prominent in our public affairs; others suffering outside the glare of publicity; others still who are dead, their reputations horribly sullied by allegations that they cannot themselves rebut.
The Government frequently emphasise the operational independence of the police, sometimes almost giving the impression that they think it has become almost a separate estate of the realm—a result, in part, of the arrival of those newcomers, the police and crime commissioners, whose performance varies so widely across the country and for whom hardly any elector wishes to vote.
We surely must ensure that the police are called effectively to account when operations have been concluded and there is serious reason to believe that injustice may have been done to those who have been investigated. Often, large sums of public money are spent on these operations. Failure by any crime commissioner to make provision for proper review of completed operations in these early days of the new system should lead to intervention by the Government; otherwise, public confidence in the police will be seriously eroded, and many police and crime commissioners will come to feel they have no need to bestir themselves to arrange for serious criticisms of completed operations to be properly investigated.
I hope that the Government will make it clear from the Front Bench at the end of this debate that those who weighted the scales against alleged abusers were wholly wrong. In this connection, they must keep a watchful eye on the work of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, for reasons set out so powerfully by previous speakers. While the independent inquiry pursues its investigations, the Government should give every support to those who deserve redress because they were unfairly treated in cases of child sex abuse. Sadly, on this point, the state has not so far distinguished itself in some notable instances where redress is imperative.
I salute the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, for the determination and tenacity with which he has sought to correct injustices done to those who cannot act for themselves because they are no longer alive. He has spoken movingly about the unsatisfactory manner in which the independent inquiry has approached the investigation of allegations against the late Lord Janner.
The noble Lord, my noble friend Lord Hunt of Wirral and I also share a common conviction that a great wrong has been done to Sir Edward Heath, a man I did not know but in whose work I take a great interest as a political historian. If he is to be seen accurately by posterity, the seven allegations of child sex abuse against him, left open at the end of the much-criticised Operation Conifer, must be cleared up, as my noble friend Lord Hunt has emphasised. This is no less than our duty to a Conservative statesman in this generation, when the facts can be readily established, as it is unlikely to be possible hereafter. It is simply wrong to let his reputation remain gravely tarnished by doing nothing.
Last week, with the support of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, and others in all parts of the House, I set out in detail why an independent inquiry must be held. Shamefully, the Government have brushed aside the unanimous view of this House. The matter cannot rest there. I have now tabled a further Motion for debate that,
“this House resolves that an independent inquiry should be established by Her Majesty’s Government to review the seven allegations against Sir Edward Heath left unresolved at the end of Operation Conifer”.
This is the strongest form of words that the rules of this House provide in circumstances where the Government have failed to do their duty.
The injustice that has been inflicted posthumously on a Conservative statesman should come within the remit of the independent inquiry, as the inquiry itself has recognised and my noble friend Lord Hunt has explained. Yet, perversely, the Conservative police and crime commissioner for Wiltshire keeps on saying that the inquiry should investigate, despite its clear refusal. It is a measure of this man’s extraordinary irresponsibility. He could set up an inquiry himself but keeps on passing the buck. Since he will not act, the Government obviously should, and yet they constantly refuse.
The Government now maintain that they have provided a full and sufficient explanation for their refusal to establish an inquiry in a letter dated 10 Octoberand written by the current Home Secretary to the noble Lord, Lord Armstrong of Ilminster, who I see in his place, a copy of which has been placed in the Library of the House. The Government have made much of this letter. It is wholly definitive, in their view, leaving nothing further to be said, according to views expressed in this House last week and earlier this week. At six paragraphs, this communication is certainly more than a note but is not much of a letter.
The key section is as follows:
“The problem that the police encountered was their inability to interview Sir Edward himself in order to secure his account of events. I have every sympathy, but that problem will of course remain and it is not clear to what extent a further review of the existing evidence by a judge or retired prosecutor would resolve this”.
“Not clear”, says the Home Secretary. That seems absurd. A review of the seven unsubstantiated allegations by a retired judge or other leading lawyer, who would probe and scrutinise every aspect of them, would establish whether or not all, or some, or even one of them carried serious credibility.
The Home Secretary has not provided any adequate justification for his inaction. He should write another letter, much longer and fuller this time, for which I asked in our debate in the House last week on the injustice done to Sir Edward. I hope that I shall hear from the Front Bench this evening that such a letter is in preparation and that all who took part in last week’s debate will shortly receive it.
Where, above all in our land, should we expect to find unwavering support for natural justice? What are the last places where a rush to pass judgment on an alleged but unproven sex abuser might be anticipated? Surely the answer is the Christian churches and our established Church, represented here in this House, in particular. But a terrible wrong done to arguably the greatest of all Anglican bishops of the last century has damaged confidence in the Church’s rectitude.
In October three years ago, completely out of the blue, the Church of England’s national press office announced that compensation had been paid to a woman who said that she had been sexually abused as a child by George Bell, Bishop of Chichester, who died 60 years ago and was revered in this country and far beyond it for the depth of his learning, the strength of his support for both suffering Christians and Jews in Nazi Germany and for his remorseless opposition to the carpet-bombing of German cities during the war, a stand that is often said to have cost him the archbishopric of Canterbury. The Church’s judgment on Bishop Bell three years ago was a terrible wrong to this colossal figure in the history of Christianity, because the single, uncorroborated allegation against him had not been properly investigated by the secret group within the Church who passed judgment on him. Key living witnesses were neither sought, found nor interviewed. His extensive collection of private papers at Lambeth Palace was only cursorily examined.
These shortcomings, and more besides, emerged in the independent review of the case carried out by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, and published exactly one year ago. His report was scathing about the procedures that had been used. The noble Lord found that the Church had,
“failed to follow a process that was fair and equitable to both sides”.
He described the manner in which the Church had conducted its investigation as “inappropriate and impermissible”, and called the financial payment “indefensibly wrong”. No one in the course of the process spoke on behalf of this most distinguished and long-dead bishop, yet the Church saw no need to express penitence or regret for the great wrong that had been done to Bishop Bell, a wrong which the noble Lord’s report illustrated so fully.
The Church chose to regard it purely as a question of its own processes. Even when those processes had been shot to pieces, the Archbishop of Canterburyhimself continued to maintain the conclusions which the processes had drawn, quite regardless, pronouncing that a “significant cloud” still hung over the reputation of George Bell. That cloud was entirely the work of the Church itself, and many critics were not slow to observe that its authorities had a vested interest in maintaining it in the air, regardless of the fact that there was no longer anything to support it. A little over a month after the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, published his report, the Church embarked on another secret inquiry after one further allegation appeared. Nearly a year on, that second inquiry has yet to be completed.
Bishop Bell has been much in my mind over the last few years and in the mind of many others, too: distinguished clergymen in this country and other European nations, historians and lawyers, powerful commentators in the press, along with so many other people up and down the land who have been grievously distressed by the conduct of their Church. I had hoped that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester might, in the course of his remarks, at least have made it clear that this second inquiry will be brought to a swift conclusion and that a report will be published as soon as possible. As it is, I urge all those who have not done so to look at the report of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile. I hope that we will, sooner rather than later, have from the Church a proper, firm pronouncement removing the stain placed on Bishop Bell, whose reputation it should never have compromised in the first place.
I regret to say that the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has not been a great help in securing justice for Bishop Bell. Having decided, quite rightly, that it would not conduct an investigation itself since the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, had already done so, it proceeded in March to give a platform to the Chichester diocesan safeguarding adviser, a member of the team that failed to investigate the first allegation properly, so that he could justify himself at length and snipe at a number of comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile.
Could there be a more flagrant denial of the presumption of innocence than in the case of Bishop Bell? The independent inquiry should take note. It is examining some truly shocking cases of child sex abuse, but it must take great care to respect the rights of those who are accused and avoid serious mistakes of the kind that have been made in both state and Church when justice and fairness were overridden because the complainants were assumed to be telling the truth.
Lord Finkelstein Conservative 4:06 pm, 20th December 2018
The Bishop of Chichester Bishop
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Lexden, for his speech. Does he agree with me that it would be inappropriate to comment on the ongoing investigation into matters surrounding Bishop George Bell while we do not know the date on which that investigation is going to report?
Lord Finkelstein Conservative
The right reverend Prelate is intervening on me, so my noble friend Lord Lexden cannot reply.
I shall start with the words that noble Lords most dread—“It is not my intention today to make a long speech”. I intend only a short intervention to express concerns about the proposed treatment of Lord Janner by the child abuse inquiry and to associate myself in that regard with the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours.
My opening observation is that what we have learned in the past few years about the prevalence of child abuse is deeply shocking. We have learned that all sorts of institutions covered up the behaviour in order to avoid embarrassment, and that was shameful. I have always thought that it was highly unlikely that the behaviour—both the abuse and the cover-up—that was so prevalent in society would be absent from political institutions, so I vigorously support an independent inquiry. I also note that, as Parliament is one of the institutions being inquired into, the inquiry will wish to maintain a robust attitude to our criticisms and to insist that it is better placed to make judgments than people in this House.
I knew Lord Janner, I know and love his family, and I accept that this means that I do not have the independence that the inquiry claims for itself. Yet, while accepting that, I hope that the inquiry will prove able and willing to listen to legitimate concerns, politely put. My concern is that the decision to hold a separate strand on Lord Janner—the one strand on a person—is very odd indeed. The inquiry suggests that it will not relitigate criminal or civil proceedings and that it has no power to determine criminal or civil liability. Does this mean that allegations will be aired as if they were true, without subjecting them to question? The inquiry insists that it has made no assumption of guilt, but let us not be naive. The danger of a separate strand is obvious; we can all see it. I can certainly see it—I am a newspaper journalist, after all.
If the inquiry simply airs allegations without cross-examination it will give the impression of guilt. It will put on the record charges without proper regard to whether they are true—and I cannot think that is fair or right. Of course Lord Janner must not be treated better than other people, but we are discussing the fact that he is being treated worse than other people. I completely appreciate the importance of the rights of victims, and the right of victims to be heard, but the inquiry has to make sure not just that it is listening to victims—and in some cases it may not be—but that it is listening to victims of Lord Janner, and it cannot know that unless it inquires into facts that it says it will not inquire into and is obviously taking as read. This cannot be done casually or lazily. Nor can it be done, as I fear it is, by assumption. So I hope that the inquiry will be able to reassure those of us who worry about this.
I have a third point to make before I sit down. The inquiry must take care not to think that, as Lord Janner is dead, it matters less what is said about him. He has a family; they loved him and his reputation matters to them. He belonged to a community who much admired him, and his reputation matters to his community. He was a parliamentarian and he thrived here, and his reputation matters to Parliament—and it matters to me, too. So it matters what the inquiry says.
It is important to emphasise that the inquiry must tell the truth. It must do so bravely, without favour and independently of people like me and my judgment. But you know what? It must do it fairly, too.
Lord Winston Labour 4:10 pm, 20th December 2018
My Lords, I am very grateful for permission to speak briefly in the gap. I have just come back from an overseas trip, which is why my name was not on the list. I am speaking simply because I felt that in a debate such as this it was very unlikely that somebody would speak any science, so I am intending to do that for a couple of minutes.
Some years ago we photoshopped pictures of married adults who had young children aged six into a hot air balloon. We showed them the photographs and tried to reinforce the idea that they remembered being in this balloon when they themselves were six. We had gathered pictures of them as six-year olds from the grandparents of the children whom we were studying at the time. To a man and a woman, each person who saw the photoshopped image of themselves aged six in a hot air balloon denied that they had been in one. But by the following day a number of them—quite a large proportion—remembered being in a hot air balloon. We had manipulated their memory. Moreover, those who were of a neurotic disposition tended to remember thinking that they might fall out of the balloon or hit the ground with a bump, and those who were in fact rather optimistic people on the general OCEAN scoring, which is a standard psychometric test, were happy to see the birds and the sheep in the fields and thought how lovely it was to be floating with a gas burner holding them up in the hot air balloon. This was an entirely created memory.
When we look through the scientific records, which are not particularly good, we can see that recreated memory and long-term memory is a very controversial area. Several people have looked at this. For example, one expert in Calgary in Canada points out that, while the issue of long-term memory is highly controversial in many cases, memory is open to two particular issues, one of which is contamination. It is very easy to contaminate somebody’s memory, perhaps if it involves a topical issue or a famous person, or if they have a carer or well-wisher who feels that they have been badly treated and tries to reassure them that there will be justice for them and to encourage them.
That is one of the reasons why, with respect, I take slight issue with what the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester said. He talked about the courage of these individuals in coming forward. Of course they have courage, but the very fact that they are told that they have courage could actually encourage them in a memory that is in fact not substantiated.I am not for a moment suggesting that people are lying; that is not my point. The point is that I know this from my own experience at school. I was convinced that one master had ill-treated me, but when I went back to my school recently to look at the reports I found that he had already left the school by the time when I thought he had ill-treated me—and that is an easy mistake to make. By the way, I do not think that I am a depressed person or somebody who is particularly neurotic, but it is interesting that that memory stuck with me. If I were thinking about writing a memoir, I obviously would not want to write about that now, given that I have absolutely no evidence for it.
This is something that we need to consider, because in our efforts to do right we might do great harm and do wrong. Not having cross-examination, where you can look at the evidence properly, is a major flaw, and that is something that we have to understand when we take evidence in these situations.
My Lords, I listened closely to the debate, which begs a single question: why does IICSA insist on maintaining the Janner strand when all the evidence points to the need to scrap it? I hope that Ministers will ask IICSA that question because I hope to get an explanation.
I want to make one or two comments about some of the interventions. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Wirral, spoke about the remit, which is also at the heart of my problem. What evidence will fall into the public domain under the established remit? That brings us to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester’s comments. He referred repeatedly to “survivors”, but a survivor is only a survivor if his or her evidence is the truth. If not, they are not a survivor. I am concerned about a procedure where there may be an absence of cross-examination. The noble Lord, Lord Lexden, expressed concern about how the police have handled such inquiries, particularly the Heath inquiry. That inquiry adequately illustrates the deficiency in policing systems. The noble Lord, Lord Finkelstein, spoke kindly about his friendship with the family; I am sure that the family members here today will appreciate his comments.
My noble friend Lord Winston drew our attention to false memory. He will probably know about the British False Memory Society; I hope that it can pick up his comments in our debate and perhaps make direct contact with him. Like me, the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, expressed concern about how the inquiry may proceed. The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, gave us notice of his Bill on anonymity. My noble friend Lady Chakrabarti brought to the discussions comments on the required balance in dealing with these cases. Although I agree with much of what was said by the noble Baroness, Lady Barran, I am concerned that she may not appreciate fully the damage done to families when accusers make accusations without being questioned closely on them in inquiries.
Finally, I want to sweep across all the cases we have dealt with in recent years: Sir Cliff Richard, Lord Leon Brittan, Lord Edwin Bramall, former Member of Parliament Harvey Proctor, TV personality Paul Gambaccini and former Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath—all prominent public figures, all named, shamed and humiliated. Their reputations were, if not destroyed, nearly destroyed. Now, we are in the eye of the storm before Greville Janner’s name is cleared and his personal honour is restored. How much longer will the Government stand by and do nothing in these huge miscarriages of justice?