Wednesday 16 January 2019

'Black cab rapist' John Worboys will not be released from prison early, court rules

John Worboys has been denied early release from prison
John Worboys has been denied early release from prison

Parole Board boss Nick Hardwick has reportedly resigned ahead of a ruling on a High Court challenge to the controversial decision to release serial rapist John Worboys from jail.

There was no immediate official confirmation of the resignation.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who was part in the legal action, said in a statement: "My top priority as Mayor of London is to keep Londoners safe. I will always do everything within my power to keep them safe from harm. I was approached by one of John Worboys' victims and I felt it was my duty to seek a Judicial Review into the Parole Board's irrational decision.

"I am pleased that our representations were helpful in quashing the Parole Board's decision and will help to maintain Londoners' confidence in the criminal justice system.

"Regardless of today's rulings, there needs to be an urgent overhaul of the way Parole Board decisions to release offenders are taken. The shocking failures in the way John Worboys' victims were treated has damaged confidence in the criminal justice system and the

In a statement, Justice Secretary David 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.

"It is crucial the Parole Board now takes all necessary measures to ensure that public confidence is maintained in its decision-making processes. I look forward to working closely with the new leadership team to see through these vital changes."

The High Court has overturned the decision to release black cab rapist John Worboys after a challenge by victims, prompting the resignation of Parole Board chairman Nick Hardwick.

The Parole Board has issued the following statement: "As a result of the bravery and determination of the women who brought this challenge, the experience of victims will be better and there will be much simpler ways to challenge our decisions in the future.

"It was clear before the Worboys case arose that there was a compelling case for major reform of the parole system. This judgment will now open up the decision making of the board which we have been calling for.

"The Parole Board are not seeking to challenge the outcome of this case and the Worboys case will now be re-referred to the Parole Board. The court acknowledged that this was an unusual and complex case and we want any decision to be made on the best possible evidence.

"The chair Professor Nick Hardwick has since resigned from the Parole Board."

Chief Executive Martin Jones said: "Parole Board members make incredibly difficult and complex decisions every day that can have a devastating impact on victims and the case of John Worboys is no different. The courts have decided we must go back and look at this case again in light of additional information that wasn't before the original panel and we will do just that.

"Nick Hardwick and I have always been clear that we will support our members when they face criticism in making these important decisions. I am deeply sorry that Nick Hardwick has decided to resign, he is a man of real integrity, and I have been proud to work with him."

Reading out a summary of the court's conclusions, Sir Brian said it upheld the challenge by the two women to the "rationality" of the board's decision "on the basis that it 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.

"That is so even in relation to the offences of which he was convicted, let alone any other offending."

In his letter to Justice Secretary David Gauke offering his resignation as chairman of the Parole Board, Nick Hardwick wrote: "You told me that you thought my position was untenable.

"I had no role in the decision of the panel in the case and believe I am capable of leading the Parole Board through the changes, many of which I have advocated, that will now be necessary.

"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.

"I will not pass the buck to those who work under me. In these circumstances I inform you of my decision to resign with immediate effect.

"In conclusion, I want to state my concern about the independence of the board. I believe this matter raises very troubling questions about how the board's independence can be safeguarded. I hope Parliament will consider what structural changes are necessary to ensure this independence is protected in future."

In his letter of resignation, Mr Hardwick added: "The court was critical of some aspects of the panel's decision-making processes although it did not overturn the panel's decisions on these grounds.

"It could not, no more than you or I, put itself in the place of the expert and experienced panel members who heard the evidence and made the decision.

"The court did however find that the panel's understanding that it could not go beyond the offences for which Worboys was convicted was mistaken in this 'difficult, troubling case with many exceptional features'.

"I shared the panel's misapprehension in this matter and this was supported by the advice I received. We were wrong."

Justice Secretary David Gauke said after the ruling: "I welcome today's judgment and congratulate the victims who brought this unprecedented legal action.

"I want to take this opportunity to reiterate my heartfelt sympathy for all they, and the other victims, have suffered as a result of Worboys' hideous crimes."

He said: "I took expert legal advice from leading counsel on whether I should bring a challenge.

"The bar for judicial review is set high. I considered whether the decision was legally rational - in other words, a decision which no reasonable Parole Board could have made.

"The advice I received was that such an argument was highly unlikely to succeed. And, indeed, this argument did not succeed. However, the victims succeeded in a different argument."

Mr Gauke announced his intention to "conduct further work to examine the Parole Board rules in their entirety".

He added: "As a result of the work that has been completed to date, I have already decided to abolish Rule 25 and will do so as soon as possible after the Easter recess,

"This will enable us to provide for the Parole Board to make available summaries of the decisions they make to victims.

"In addition, I will bring forward proposals for Parole Board decisions to be challenged.

"I intend to consult on the detail of these proposals by the end of April alongside other proposals to improve the way that victims are kept informed about the parole process.

"I will make a statement to Parliament this afternoon and set out our response to the judgment - and our next steps - in more detail."

A spokesman for the Sun newspaper, which brought a legal challenge regarding the secrecy surrounding the Parole Board's decision in the John Worboys case, said:

"First and foremost this is a day for the victims, who have fought bravely to take this case to court.

"But it is also a victory for transparency and for the free press in a matter of profound public interest.

"Today's ruling is a landmark judgment in favour of open justice and will allow the decisions of the Parole Board to be subject to the scrutiny they deserve.

"This case has shown all too clearly the value of that work."

Mr Gauke will make a statement to the House of Commons on the Worboys case and the Parole Board at approximately 1.45pm.

Law firm Slater and Gordon represented 11 of Worboys' victims.

Kim Harrison, a specialist abuse lawyer with the firm, said: "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."

Press Association

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