Ex-lawmaker fails to appear in court on sex charges

AP News
Posted: Aug 14, 2015 7:59 AM

LONDON (AP) — A judge on Friday warned that a former British lawmaker diagnosed with severe dementia risks arrest for failing to appear in court to face charges of sex crimes against children.

Greville Janner did not attend a hearing at Westminster Magistrates' Court, despite losing a challenge based on his health and being ordered to face a "trial of the facts" to be held before a judge and jury. Janner's attorney, Paul Ozin, says he would be applying for Janner to appear via video link, but District Judge Emma Arbuthnot's patience seemed strained at the prospect of another delay.

"Even if I have to have him arrested, I am going to resolve this matter today," Arbuthnot said. "I'm warning you that as time progresses I'm going to turn to the prosecution and say let's get a warrant to have him arrested. Let's not waste time."

Prosecutors originally said they would not charge the 86-year-old Janner for alleged offenses against boys several decades ago because his Alzheimer's meant he was not fit to stand trial. After victims expressed outrage, the decision was reversed.

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Janner was a Labour Party lawmaker from 1970-97 and later served in the House of Lords. He is accused of 22 offenses in 1960s, 70s and 80s, mostly in his central England constituency.

His family said he is innocent.

A "trial of the facts" determines whether a defendant committed the alleged offenses, but would not result in a verdict or a sentence. At most, the judge could place the defendant under supervision or be confined to a hospital.