A Labour peer facing more than 20 allegations of historical child abuse looks set to avoid prosecution after doctors said he was unfit to be quizzed because he has dementia.Which makes this 2010 story from the Western Morning News intriguing:
A Devon man has been found guilty of abusing six under-age girls in a trial held in his absence at Exeter Crown Court.
Jurors yesterday unanimously found that Michael Collingwood, now 69, of Tedburn St Mary, near Exeter, committed 23 sex offences, including raping one girl.
Judge Paul Darlow instructed the jury to formally enter not guilty pleas to the other six sex offence allegations.
Jurors heard the trial in Collingwood's absence after being told he suffers from severe dementia.
The jury forewoman, giving her verdicts, was required to say she found Collingwood "did the act charged" rather than being "guilty", due to him not standing trial.
They were told, after the verdict, that he is currently in hospital under a Mental Health Act order, and his future will be decided at a further hearing.There may be some subtleties here, in that it appears from the report that Collingwood was well enough to be questioned when these offences were investigated the previous year.
But it does appear that someone with dementia can still be tried for sexual offences against children.
Is the Mirror story inaccurate? Or are peers treated differently from commoners?