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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Institutional responses to allegations of child sexual abuse involving the late Lord Janner of Braunstone QC Investigation Report

A.4: The public hearing: evidence in open sessions and closed sessions

11. The public hearing took place over 14 days between 12 and 30 October 2020. This was a virtual hearing, given the restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.[1] In total, 23 witnesses were called to give evidence. In addition, we heard summaries of evidence from 11 witnesses. The open sessions were broadcast, as has occurred in respect of public hearings in other Inquiry investigations. The process adopted by the Inquiry is set out in Annex 1 to this report.

12. In preparation for the public hearing, the Inquiry obtained a significant volume of evidence, and disclosed over 22,500 pages of evidence to the core participants.[2] This included police and Crown Prosecution Service files from the previous investigations into Lord Janner, as well as the Operation Enamel files. These police files included witness statements from the majority of complainants, some of whom also provided additional witness statements to the Inquiry.

13. A significant amount of evidence in this investigation was heard during closed session. This was necessary in order to protect the identity of complainants, who are entitled to lifelong anonymity under the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992 (the 1992 Act).[3] Section 1(1) of the 1992 Act prevents any matter being published about a complainant which might enable the public to identify them as being someone against whom a sexual offence has been said to have been committed. The 1992 Act applies to the Inquiry’s work, and applies irrespective of whether there has been previous publication or reporting of a complainant’s identity.

14. Some complainants waived their right to anonymity, others did not. Where there was no waiver of anonymity, the Inquiry took particular care to ensure that matters were not said publicly that could enable identification of those complainants. Given the previous police investigations and widespread media reporting of the allegations against Lord Janner, there was a real risk that hearing the evidence during open hearings, when combined with material already in the public domain, would enable ‘jigsaw identification’. As a consequence, a restriction order (a formal order preventing the reporting of certain information) was made on 18 September 2019 to prohibit the publication of any matter if it was likely to lead members of the public to identify a person as a complainant.[4] To have heard the evidence that risked identifying complainants in open session, or to publish that evidence in a report, would be unlawful and would have jeopardised the legal right of complainants to anonymity.

15. All core participants and the media were given an opportunity to address the Inquiry about the closed hearings. We also heard detailed legal submissions from Counsel to the Inquiry, a team of independent barristers instructed by the Inquiry to assist in its work. The core participants and the media were given the opportunity to propose other methods of proceeding, which would strike the balance between the legal right of complainants to anonymity and the public interest in hearing as much of the evidence in open session as possible. Having carefully considered those submissions, it was clear that in order for the investigation to continue, the law required much of the evidence to be presented in closed hearings.

16. Witness evidence in closed session was subject to the same scrutiny as if it had been given in public. Those representing core participants were able to, and did in fact, make requests to invite questions of witnesses.[5] In total, there were 45 core participants whose legal teams were present during both the open and closed sessions. In addition, a number of accredited members of the press were present to enable reporting of those matters that could be made public. The Inquiry also published open summaries of each day’s closed proceedings on its website. The Inquiry’s full report in this investigation (which runs to 165 pages) is restricted from publication, but is available to core participants and to the accredited members of the press, and has been provided to the Secretary of State for the Home Department.

17. In drafting this publishable report, the Inquiry took care to balance the need to protect the complainants’ legal right to anonymity with its statutory duties to be open and to act with fairness. Given the constraints of the legal framework, we have been limited to putting into the public domain those parts of the evidence that could legally be included. As a result, this report does not give as full a public account of all the evidence received as we would wish, or reflect the totality of the evidence received by the Inquiry or all the conclusions set out in our full report, which is restricted from publication. We have considered whether reporting the evidence in this way creates any unfairness because the evidential picture set out in this report is inevitably incomplete, and we have prevented any imbalance insofar as we are able.

References

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