Justice Secretary orders review into parole board after release of black cab rapist
The Justice Secretary, David Lidlington ordered a review of the parole board’s methods over the weekend following the release of John Worboys. In ordering the review, he said it was ‘a priority for this government that victims of rape and sexual assault have full confidence in the criminal justice system’.
John Worboys, now 60, was facing an indefinite sentence, but only served nine years after he was convicted of 19 offences including a charge of rape and multiple charges of sexual assault. Originally, 83 complaints were made against Warboys, but many of these did not surpass the Crown Prosecutions Service’s (CPS) evidential threshold. However, police believe that Warboys may have attacked more than 100 women.
The former black cab driver committed a string of offences during a period between 2002 and 2008. He would collect vulnerable and lone young women, tell them he had just won the lottery and encourage them to celebrate with him. This ‘celebration’ took the form of champagne laced with sedatives. This is when he would assault his victims, without their ability to prevent it.
His victims were rarely able to recall what had happened, just that they had fallen asleep in the back of his car and awoken at home. Handing Worboys his sentence back in 2009, Mr Justice Penry-Davey told him: ‘You developed and perfected a web of deceit that was sufficient to ensnare young, intelligent and sensible women who had enjoyed a night out and whose only mistake, as it turned out, was to get into your cab late at night.’ Following this, it was decided that Worboys would not be freed until he could show the parole board that he was no longer a danger to women.
Last week it was announced that he would be freed, with the parole board chief, Nick Hardwick, ‘confident’ he would not reoffend.
Along with the decision to release Warboys, the lack of notification of such a decision to his victims has put the parole board under scrutiny. Theresa May, on Sunday, told the Andrew Marr show that she knew one of the victims, and that she had been made aware of the decision only through media coverage.
Owing to legal restrictions, the parole board did not release their reasoning for the decision, only releasing a short statement: ‘We can confirm that a three member panel of the Parole Board has directed the release of Mr John Worboys, following an oral hearing. The arrangements for Mr Worboys’ release will be managed by the Ministry of Justice.’
Nick Hardwick, in apologising unreservedly to victims for the failure to notify, said that a ‘very experienced panel would have considered a huge dossier of evidence to come to their decision’.
The legal blogger the Secret Barrister, writing for the Independent, explained that in order for a prisoner serving a sentence of imprisonment for public protection to be freed they must demonstrate that they are safe to be released. ‘Those who remained a danger would remain in prison, indefinitely if need be.’ Worboys was given an eight-year tariff, of which he has served, and the parole board found that he had been sufficiently rehabilitated to pose no further risk. This may have been demonstrated by Worboys completion of a sex offenders treatment programme, for instance.
Calum is a law graduate presently working as an intern at the University of Greenwich's Innocence Project London. He volunteers as a Justice Gap reporter