All reporters have stories that get away from them. The Janner story is mine. At the pub meeting, I was given copies of letters from Janner to one of his alleged victims. Only if you had been told a backstory do those letters look incriminating. They make arrangements to meet in hotels, talk of “mutual understanding” and sign off with expressions of “love”. My expectation was that these letters would be tested in court alongside other evidence.
Getting Beck’s shouted accusation about Janner suited my purposes. Since it happened in open court it put something on the record that at some point could be used in a story. While the Beck case was ongoing it was all sub judice and nothing further about Janner could be reported. The MP was also bound by the Contempt of Court Act. The moment Beck was found guilty, however, Janner declared in the House of Commons that there was “not a shred of truth in any of the allegations”.
What happened next was crucial. There was a (failed) parliamentary attempt to change the Contempt of Court Act to protect people named during proceedings in the way Janner had been. During the debate, many MPs, including Ashby and Carlile, spoke up for him. Key was Vaz, MP for the neighbouring Leicestershire constituency, who clearly hadn’t been party to the rumours circulating in his home town. He said his dear friend had been the “victim of a cowardly and wicked attack”. That was it. The story was dead. The Independent on Sunday was not a paper to be cowed by pressure from above, but it was simpler than that. Clearly Janner was set up. I don’t even recall being taken off the story. It was just never spoken of again.
Today, Vaz is chair of the Commons home affairs select committee. He enjoys portraying himself as a champion of the voiceless, happy to castigate the Home Office over its handling of the current investigation into child abuse. Last week, I asked Vaz via Twitter whether he had anything to say about Janner, given the CPS announcement. He responded by blocking me. He later unblocked me but, at the time of writing, has still not commented.
The temptation is to demand a law change to stop something like this happening again, but the law is perfectly adequate. It’s the way it has been exercised – or not exercised – that is at issue. In 1991, Janner consulted solicitor David Napley and the barrister George Carman, both now deceased. According to a source with knowledge of that meeting, Carman was astounded, based on what Janner had told him, that he was not later charged.