A former British lawmaker and head of the Jewish community who faced charges of child sex abuse died aged 87.
Lord Greville Janner suffered from dementia and died at home, the BBC reported Saturday. Janner, a member of the House of Lords, was charged with child sex abuse offenses dating back five decades, but a High Court last week found him unfit to stand trial due to “advanced and disabling dementia.” His family denied all the charges against him.
Janner was Labour MP for the central English city of Leicester between 1970 and 1997. He also served as president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews — Anglo-Jewry’s main representative organization — from 1978 to 1984, and was a vice president of the World Jewish Congress until 2009.
Janner would be “deeply missed,” his family said, asking for their mourning to be respected.
Sir Mick Davis, chairman of the Jewish Leadership Council, told the Jewish Chronicle in a statement that “The passing of Greville Janner marks the end of an era for the Jewish community, our thoughts and prayers are with the Janner family at this most difficult time.”
Janner, whose father also served in Parliament, has three children, including Laura Janner-Klausner, a prominent rabbi at the Movement for Reform Judaism and one of Britain’s best-known Jewish figures.
In its ruling last Monday, the High Court judge cited a medical report that found that Janner, accused of a string of sex offenses from between 1963 and 1988, could now “hardly speak” and was “often bewildered by simple requests.”
“Accordingly I find that he is unfit to plead or to be tried upon this indictment,” judge Peter Openshaw told the court.
The decision had been expected as both the prosecution and defense barristers had previously agreed that Janner was not fit to take part in a trial.
Janner was one of a number of high-profile figures to face historic sex abuse charges in Britain after BBC presenter Jimmy Savile was revealed as a pedophile after his death in 2011, leading to a rush of victims coming forward.
Janner had been charged with 22 offenses against nine alleged victims, eight of whom were aged 16 or under at the time.
State prosecutors had initially declined to bring charges against Janner due to his condition, a decision that provoked an outcry and was later reversed.
In a hearing in August, Janner spent just 59 seconds in the dock. He appeared in court wearing a soiled cardigan and using a walking stick, and said “Oooh, this is wonderful” as he entered the courtroom.
JTA contributed to this report.