The very nature of historic sexual abuse means that it is not uncommon for a perpetrator to be in their later life when the matter eventually comes to be tried before the Court.
The recent death of Lord Janner has once again sparked controversy surrounding the prosecution of alleged offenders. Lord Janner passed away at age 87, following a battle with dementia. He was accused of sexual offences on nine boys and men and was due to face a “Trial of the Facts” in April 2016 – this is a special criminal hearing for suspects unfit to defend themselves in a normal trial.
The hearing was to allow Lord Janner’s proposed victims a chance to have their allegations heard in open court. Albeit that the hearing was due to take place in front of a jury, there would be no formal verdict of guilty or sentence given. If Lord Janner had have been found to have committed an offence, he would be placed in a hospital or given a supervision order. Not forgetting, he could also have been acquitted.
However, in all reality, there were doubts over whether the trial would have actually proceeded – given the fact that a Court determining his fitness to plead was told that he barely recognised his family and had no recollection of his career. Indeed, Professor Ronnie Mackay, a Professor of Criminal Policy and Mental Health has led a Law Commission study into the issue of unfitness to plead and said that it seems incredibly unlikely that the trial would have gone ahead.
When the unfit defendant has died after a finding of unfitness to plead, but before the trial of the facts takes place, the proceedings seem to terminate. In essence, the case dies with the unfit defendant.
It remains to be seen as to how the CPS will deal with and make comment upon the future of what will happen when circumstances such as these arise in the future.
Mackay commented that a “Trial of the Facts” had been introduced to improve upon the old legal system whereby defendants who were found to be unfit to plead could be committed to hospital without allowing victims an opportunity to tell their story – clearly, a “Trial of the Facts” was put in place to protect both the unfit defendant and give victims their day in court.
The alleged victims of Lord Janner are expected to continue their battle for justice in the civil courts and claim compensation from his estate. However, the alleged victims will undoubtedly feel that they have been denied access to justice at the very last moment.
Here at Farleys we have a specialist and dedicated team of solicitors who can advise and assist you on claims arising from abuse. We have an enviable record in successfully pursuing Criminal Injuries Compensation Claims as well as claims against individuals and establishments/local authorities, even when these claims are significantly out of time and statute barred. To speak to a member of our team about pursuing an abuse compensation claim, contact us here.