The former head of the Parole Board has called on the Ministry of Justice to accept their share of the blame over the controversial decision to release John Worboys.
Nick Hardwick on Thursday dismissed claims that he was made a scapegoat over the scandal, but said he was forced to quit by Justice Minister David Gauke.
Hardwick told the BBC’s Today programme that he was informed on Wednesday that his position was untenable.
“I didn’t resign willingly. I resigned because I had no choice,” he told Radio 4′s Today programme.
Harwick’s resignation was announced shortly before a High Court ruling on Wednesday that ordered the Parole Board to reconsider its decision to release Worboys, known as the black cap rapist.
“I accept that the Parole Board got it wrong, but I personally had no role in the decision,” Hardwick explained, before calling for the Ministry of Justice to also admit failings. “I don’t think the Ministry ... is being correct in this,” he said.
“I accept that the Parole Board was wrong, but what I don’t accept is that we were any more responsible than the Ministry of Justice, and I don’t believe that the right lessons will be learned in this case if the only people accepting responsibility are the Parole Board,” he added.
However, he did not call for the resignation of David Gauke, the Justice Minister, but called on him to accept responsibility for any mistakes that were made.
The call was echoed by Phillippa Kaufmann QC, who represented the two women behind the High Court challenge, both of whom were attacked by Worboys. She said Gauke “bears some responsibility” for the decision to release him, which caused outrage among the public when it was announced last year.
Much of the BBC interview centred on the judge's recommendation that the Parole Board should have examined more closely Worboys' other alleged offences. He was convicted of 19 offences, including rape, against 12 victims but police say he may have attacked more than 100 women.
The High Court ruling found the board should have looked more closely at the alleged offences.
The Parole Board did not do this, Hardwick explained today, because at that time it was “the widely held practice” not to.
“(At)... that time it was correct... I didn’t believe the Parole Board could go into those cases”.
The High Court ruled there was “exceptional features” in the Worboys case which meant the Parole Board “could have got into it and I think it would be helpful for the Parole Board in future”, Hardwick said.
Despite this, he said that decision was not solely the panel’s fault as the Worboys dossier handed to it by Gauke did not contain “sufficient information about the other alleged offences and therefore the panel didn’t consider it”.
“The judgment is very clear that the dossier provided to the panel by the Secretary of State did not contain all the information it should have done, and that the Secretary of State’s representative, who was at the panel, didn’t in any way suggest that the panel should have discussed those other matters,” Hardwick told the Today programme.
In a statement in Parliament on Wednesday Gauke acknowledged the MOJ “should have done more to put forward all the relevant material on other offending”.
Gauke said new guidance would be issued requiring “all relevant evidence of past offending” to be included in dossiers submitted to the Parole Board.
Further directives included, “robust procedures” being put in place to ensure every dossier contains “every necessary piece of evidence” and “boosting” the role of the Secretary of State’s representative at hearings.
Victoria Scott, an independent member of the parole board, appointed under Hardwick’s chairmanship, told the Guardian she was “disappointed and angry” that Hardwick had been forced to resign.
“On his watch the Parole Board cleared the long-standing backlog: dealing with 25,000 cases and holding over 7,000 oral hearings in 2017 whilst at the same time keeping the rate of serious further offending at less than 1%.
“Throughout his time in post Mr Hardwick worked tirelessly to increase understanding of the Parole Board’s work and pushed for greater transparency.
“He championed increased engagement with victims. He was a powerful advocate for a truly independent Parole Board and we need that now more than ever.”