The departure of Alison Saunders as Director of Public Prosecutions is long overdue. Her controversial tenure has been increasingly disastrous for her organisation.
Through her misguided actions and her obsession with fashionable dogma, she has undermined not only the legal profession but also the integrity of the justice system.
The essential principles of British law, such as the presumption of innocence and the need to weigh evidence, were crushed in her doctrinaire crusade, where she urged that anyone alleging sexual assault should be believed automatically.
Nothing exemplified her unfitness for her role more clearly than her cruel, incompetent and futile attempt to prosecute my late father, the Labour politician and peer Greville Janner.
The departure of Alison Saunders as Director of Public Prosecutions is long overdue. Her controversial tenure has been increasingly disastrous for her organisation
Amid the public furore over child abuse earlier this decade, he was the target of a string of allegations from people who claimed to be his victims.
These accusations, which turned out to be utterly baseless, were distressing enough for myself and the rest of my family. The approach of the Crown Prosecution Service under Saunders, who managed to mix callousness with ineptitude, compounded our misery.
First of all, in April 2015, she announced that, though the CPS believed it had enough evidence to prosecute my father, it would not proceed with the case because of his poor health, since he was suffering from dementia.
Yet soon afterwards, following an outcry orchestrated by the supposed victims and their supporters, this decision was reversed. It was a craven display of pusillanimity in the face of emotional blackmail.
Nothing exemplified her unfitness for her role more clearly than her cruel, incompetent and futile attempt to prosecute my late father, the Labour politician and peer Greville Janner
So in August 2015 my frail, bewildered, doubly-incontinent father was dragged into court for the preliminary hearing at the start of criminal proceedings against him.
For the family, it was a heart-breaking experience, especially because we knew the case against him was so hopelessly flawed.
That is exactly what Saunders should have also recognised. There was never any hard evidence against him.
The entire proceedings were built on an edifice of lies.
One of the allegations against my father involved an attack in a London hotel, yet the stamps in his passport proved that at the time of the alleged incident he was actually in Australia. Similarly, a key victim was a figure called ‘Nick’, a serial accuser whose tales were at the heart of the police investigation Operation Midland, into a paedophile ring at the heart of Westminster. On further scrutiny, ‘Nick’s’ lurid stories – one of which involved an alleged assault by my father at the exclusive Carlton Club – have proved to be fiction.
The police took their cue from the bullying nature of the Saunders regime.
At one stage, I was asked over the phone by an officer from Leicestershire – where my father’s Parliamentary seat had been –whether he had ever abused me.
I fiercely denied this, pointing out that he had always been a loving, devoted father. Yet the Leicestershire Police still wasted public money in sending a team to London to interview me.
My father died in December 2015, bringing an end to criminal proceedings. But the agony dragged on as the alleged victims – eager for compensation – embarked on civil proceedings to gain money from his estate.
Yet their greed only confirmed the hollowness of the CPS’s prosecution. As soon as the law firms saw the pathetic nature of the disclosed evidence, they dropped their actions. Given how the standard of proof is much lower in civil compared to criminal law, that reveals how pitiful the case against my father really was. Due to the malignant legacy of Saunders’ influence, the farce continues through Professor Alexis Jay’s long-running public enquiry into institutionalised child abuse.
Having cleared our father’s name once, now we have to do it all again, since Professor Jay has decided to devote a separate hearing into the allegations against him. This move is as absurd as anything dreamt up by Saunders.
Through her misguided actions and her obsession with fashionable dogma, she has undermined not only the legal profession but also the integrity of the justice system
The enquiry cannot reach a verdict, nor can my late father give his response.
It is a piece of surreal, politicised theatre, so typical of the mess that is Professor Jay’s beleaguered initiative. The tragedy is that Britain had a perfectly good criminal justice system before the arrival of Alison Saunders in 2013.
As a barrister myself, I know that the Crown Prosecution Service was generally respected for its effectiveness and its judgement.
But those qualities have been lost as Saunders has pursued her mission, where political considerations count for more than the hard-nosed assessment of evidence. Lawyers and police officers are in despair over her insistence that, in abuse cases, victims must be believed, as well her problematic guidance on the disclosure of evidence to the defence, which – as we have seen in the collapse of a host of rape trials – carries the risk of causing endless miscarriages of justice.
One of the worst features of her regime is that, by weakening public faith in the courts system through her warped priorities, she has damaged the cause of fighting for the real victims of sexual abuse and oppression.
The catalogue of miserable bungling is testimony to five years of failure under Saunders.
Beyond my father’s case, the record encompasses a damning roll call of other injustices, like that of former MP Harvey Proctor and media presenter Paul Gambaccini, who rightly said he was the victim of a witch-hunt after he was cleared of all abuse allegations against him.
It can only be hoped that Saunders’ imminent exit will bring back a sense of balance and perspective. We really need an authoritative legal arbiter – not an ideological crusader.