- Worboys to remain in prison as the Parole Board reconsiders his release
- Parole Board boss Nick Hardwick resigned ahead of the ruling
- Resignation welcomed by Justice Secretary David Gauke
- PM praises victims and says matter raises ‘serious concerns’
- Victim DSD ‘absolutely thrilled’ with ruling
The victims of the “black cab rapist” John Worboys have won a high court challenge to force the Parole Board to reconsider its decision to release him from prison.
Three leading judges in London have ordered the Board to carry out a “fresh determination” on his release, meaning the serial sex attacker will remain in prison pending the outcome.
Sir Brian Leveson, Mr Justice Jay and Mr Justice Garnham said on Wednesday that the Parole Board should have undertaken “further inquiry into the circumstances of his offending”.
Kim Harrison from the firm Slater and Gordon, who represented 11 of Worboys’ victims said as the news was announced: “Our clients are delighted and deeply relieved by today’s decision to overturn the release of this dangerous man.
“We have said all along that Worboys is a manipulative and calculating individual who conned the Parole Board into granting his release.
“Our clients, who have been terrified that he will track them down after his release, can now sleep easy in their beds safe in the knowledge that this serial sex offender will be kept in jail where he belongs.”
One of the women who brought the High Court challenge, who can only be identified as DSD, said she was “absolutely thrilled” with the High Court’s ruling, but that she still felt Worboys should be prosecuted over her allegations.
She also said she was very grateful to everyone who supported her and fellow complainant NBV to bring the case through crowd-funding.
DSD said she fought the case so that victims of sex offences might avoid a similar experience to hers in future.
She said: “I have always said one of the reasons I am doing this is to give women the confidence that they can come forward and it will be dealt with. I wouldn’t want another woman to go through what I have been through the past 10 to 15 years.
“I want women to be able to go to the police, report a crime and have it dealt with adequately.”
NBV said: “Since 4 January this year I have felt frozen in shock, disgusted and
traumatised by the thought that Worboys could be on the streets so soon. News that we have won this case finally brought huge relief. I can get on with my life again without looking over my shoulder.”
Harriet Wistrich, solicitor for both claimants, said she had been “inundated” with calls from other victims of Worboys, adding: “It was immediately clear that all those who had encountered him previously were convinced he was a danger to women and would offend again.”
Prime Minister Theresa May praised the “brave” victims who brought the legal action and she said the decision to quash the release of Worboys gave rise to “serious concerns”. In 2014 the Met, with the Home Office - under then-Home Secretary May who intervened in support, went to the Supreme Court after the High Court found the force was liable to the women for failures in its investigation. The case was lost.
Worboys used alcohol and drugs to incapacitate his victims in his black cab between 2002 and 2008. A former stripper who now goes by the name John Radford, he was found guilty in 2009 of 19 charges of drugging and sexually assaulting 12 women passengers, in one case raping a woman.
He was jailed indefinitely with a minimum term of eight years, but earlier this year it was announced that he would be released on parole, prompting widespread anger and criticism of the Parole Board. In January Justice Secretary David Gauke had ruled out a judicial review of the decision, telling the Commons he believed there was “no reasonable prospect of success.”
On Wednesday Gauke defended his decision not to bring a judicial review, saying he received legal advice that such an argument was “highly unlikely to succeed, and indeed this argument did not succeed”.
Reading out a summary of the court’s conclusions, Sir Leveson said it upheld the challenge, which was brought by two of Worboys’ victims, “on the basis that (the Parole Board) should have undertaken further inquiry into the circumstances of his offending and, in particular, the extent to which the limited way in which he has described his offending may undermine his overall credibility and reliability.”
The head of the Parole Board, Nick Hardwick, resigned ahead of the ruling, a move that was welcomed by Gauke.
In a statement, Gauke said: “I accept Professor Hardwick’s resignation and believe this is the correct decision in light of the serious failings outlined in today’s judgment. I would also like to express my appreciation for his committed service to the Board and the contribution he has made to my department’s review of parole processes.”
In his resignation letter, Hardwick said: “I am sorry for the mistakes that were made in this case, but I have always made it clear that I will support the members and staff of the board in the very difficult individual decisions they make and I will accept accountability for the work of the board.”
The Parole Board said it would not seek to challenge the outcome of the case, and said the Worboys case would now be re-referred for consideration over his release.
Speaking later in the Commons, Gauke said he would be instructing his staff to issue new guidance that “all relevant evidence of past offending should be included in the dossier submitted to the Parole Board, including possibly police evidence.”
The urgent judicial review was brought by two victims of the 60-year-old former black cab driver, and by the London Mayor Sadiq Khan. The two-day hearing concluded on March 14.
Worboys denies committing any offences other than those he was convicted of.
At the heart of the challenge was a question as to why the Parole Board did not take into account “wider allegations” of Worboys’ offending, after victims and campaigners asked by not all of the 100+ complaints against him had been brought to trial.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) defended its decision by saying the complaints did not pass the evidential test.
Worboys’ lawyer, Edward Fitzgerald QC, had told the court his was a “unique” case, adding: “He has completed his tariff and he is therefore entitled to be released if it is not necessary for the protection of the public that he be detained.
“The Parole Board had directed his release, he was entitled on their direction to freedom and he has had that taken away. I think it is a unique case in which someone who has been granted his freedom has then had it taken away from him.”
Fitzgerald said the alternative remedy to what would be the “drastic and unprecedented step” of taking away Worboys’ freedom was for release conditions to be “strengthened”.
He told the court: “Mr Radford has readily accepted proposals for additional monitoring, by way of electronic tagging and lie detector tests.”
Dan Squires, QC for the London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the case “raises much wider questions than simply the release of one person. It raises questions about confidence in the justice system.”