LONDON (AP) — British prosecutors have reversed their position and will charge a former lawmaker who now has severe dementia with sex crimes against children.
The Crown Prosecution Service said Monday that a judge and jury would conduct a "trial of the facts" in the case of 86-year-old Greville Janner, although his illness means he likely will not be convicted or punished.
Police and child abuse victims expressed outrage when prosecutors announced in April that they would not charge Janner over alleged offenses against boys several decades ago, even though there was enough evidence to prosecute. Prosecutors said his Alzheimer's meant he was not fit to stand trial.
But after his alleged victims complained, prosecutors decided "it was in the public interest to bring proceedings before the court."
Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders said deciding whether to prosecute had been "an extremely difficult and borderline case because of the strong arguments on both sides."
She said it was "a matter of real regret" that Janner had not been prosecuted sooner.
Janner was a Labour Party lawmaker from 1970-97, later serving in the House of Lords. He is accused of 22 offenses in the 1960s, '70s and '80s, most involving boys in children's homes in Janner's central England constituency.
His family says he is innocent.
Liz Dux, a lawyer who represents some of the alleged victims, said he clients were delighted by the decision.
"They have felt deeply frustrated by the criminal justice system," she said. "However, this decision has given them more hope of finally establishing the truth."
The first court hearing in the case has been set for August. The court will decide whether Janner should be excused from attending the trial on medical grounds.