The frankly brutal 18-year sentence meted out to the deranged fantasist Carl Beech last year smacked of scapegoating for the police team who lapped up his make-believe story of a murderous Westminster paedophile ring. Be that as it may, his conviction vindicated the reputation of almost all those public figures he traduced.
One of his victims was the late Lord Janner of Braunstone QC, then a Labour MP, who he implausibly claimed had raped him at the Carlton Club. However, unlike Beech’s other distinguished victims, Janner had faced numerous allegations beyond the Westminster farrago and his case is in the news once again because the five-member panel of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) are engaged – controversially – in hearing evidence about those allegations.
It can hardly be denied that the very number of young males who had accused Janner of sexually abusing them is troubling. Yet an understanding of how he came to be accused reveals a far more insidious catalogue of malicious and professionally suborned invention than in the Beech case.
As a war crimes investigator, the young Greville Janner had worked with child survivors of Bergen-Belsen and, imbued by that experience with a life-long concern for the plight of damaged children, he would make
a point of visiting care homes in his Leicester constituency.
In 1991, Frank Beck, a Leicestershire care homes manager, was tried for abusing children in his charge and craftily lighted upon Janner’s visits to try to shift the blame on to the MP. To support his story, he blackmailed “W”, a former resident who was also an abuser. Years earlier, the Janner family had taken W under their wing, which apparently inspired him to claim that Janner had used this to make him his catamite. Significantly, there were no allegations involving Janner from anyone else in care nor any mention of him in social services files or the hundreds of witness statements. The prosecution demolished Beck’s defence and he got three life sentences. But the fantasy of Janner the abuser took on a life of its own.
Years after Beck was sent packing (and W’s story rubbished), a ragbag of dysfunctional fortune hunters came forward, in many cases lured by disgraceful solicitors’ ads in prison magazines offering the bait of coerced settlements from the Janner estate. Leicestershire Constabulary took up the cudgels and Janner, by now suffering from advanced Alzheimer’s, was due to face a “trial of the issue” – a special procedure not statutorily intended for someone in his condition.
The prosecution terminated with Janner’s death in December 2015 (though not without the former Director of Public Prosecutions Lord MacDonald ludicrously arguing that it should still continue). However, IICSA now apparently took it upon itself to go where the criminal courts could not, believing it was entitled to widen its remit of investigating institutional failure by singling him out for a full-blown inquiry into the truth of the allegations.
It engineered this by a sleight of hand rationale and the disregarding of normal trial protocols. Yet crying foul over due process will not of itself allay suspicions, nor explain how Janner became the victim of mass copycat fraud.
Among the civil claimants, evidence of collusion, inconsistency and lying was endemic and most had a record of dishonesty. One memorably claimed to have been raped at a London hotel on a date when Janner’s passport showed he was in Australia.
With mounting evidence of fabrication and fraud, all 42 of the claims were dropped without settlement, though not before legal costs had dissipated Janner’s estate.
At enormous expense, IICSA is nonetheless obtusely pressing on with the mock trial of a dead man. One might be forgiven for wondering whether there is not perhaps some factor more sinister in play, one akin to that which has infected Janner’s own party.