John Worboys latest: Former Parole Board chair urges justice secretary to 'accept responsibility' for case handling

Nick Hardwick forced to step down following meeting with minister David Gauke

Tom Embury-Dennis
Thursday 29 March 2018 17:45 BST
Former Parole Board chairman Nick Hardwick says David Gauke should accept responsibility for John Worboys case

The former head of the Parole Board has urged the justice secretary to “accept responsibility for mistakes that were made” after High Court judges overturned a decision to release black cab rapist John Worboys.

Nick Hardwick said he was forced to step down on Wednesday following a meeting with David Gauke, the justice secretary, who told him his position was “untenable”.

His removal was announced moments before judges ruled in favour of two victims of Worboys, who challenged the decision to release the serial sex attacker from prison.

But while accepting the Parole Board panel “got it wrong”, Mr Hardwick insisted Mr Gauke was ultimately responsible for a Ministry of Justice dossier on Worboys the panel used to guide its decision.

The dossier did not include details of attacks that were not investigated and taken to court, or the sentencing remarks that called Worboys a “high continuing risk to women and a significant risk of reoffending”.

“I don’t think the Ministry of Justice is being correct in this,” Mr Hardwick told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “The judgement is very clear that the dossier provided to the panel by the secretary of state didn’t contain all the information it should have done, and that the secretary of state’s representative, who is at the panel, didn’t in any way suggest that the panel should have considered those other matters.

Justice Secretary David Guake on Worboys case: ‘I have accepted Nick Hardwick’s resignation’

“I accept that the Parole Board was at fault in these matters. I don’t accept that we were any more at fault than the MoJ. I don’t believe that the right lessons will be learnt from this case, if the only people that accept any responsibility for the things that went wrong here, [are] us.”

Asked whether Mr Gauke was attempting to shift responsibility onto the Parole Board, Mr Hardwick only said: “I accept my share of the responsibility; I think others should do so too.”

One of Worboys’ victims told The Independent the government was “scapegoating” Mr Hardwick and that there had been “failures all the way through” the legal process.

“Forcing Mr Hardwick to resign was wrong because I think he’s been made a scapegoat on this,” the woman said. “I wouldn’t put the blame solely at the Parole Board’s feet because they could only make a decision on what was presented to them.”

Phillippa Kaufmann QC, who represented the victims, said it was “improper and wrong” to force Mr Hardwick to resign.

“It looks as though he has been scapegoated for something that was not the sole fault of the Parole Board,” she added.

The ruling on Wednesday by Sir Brian Leveson, Mr Justice Jay and Mr Justice Garnham means Worboys will be subject to a fresh hearing, though Sir Brian stressed the Parole Board may decide to release him again.

Nevertheless, the High Court’s decision is likely to have wide-ranging implications for the way the Parole Board conducts hearings in the future following a government review of the body’s rules.

The victims who brought the case to court said they were “thrilled” by the result.

“Women can go to bed tonight with the knowledge he isn’t going to be on the streets any time soon,” said one of the claimants, named only as DSD, amid jubilant scenes in London.

Police are believed to be investigating fresh reports by victims of Worboys who have come forward during the judicial review, including a woman who said she was sexually assaulted in 1999.

The 60-year-old is believed to have attacked more than 100 victims but was only convicted of a sample of 19 offences against 12 women, and campaigners hope new investigations will see him jailed once more.

Lawyers do not expect the “exceptional” case to cause a flood of legal challenges against the release of other prisoners but the public outrage over Worboys’ potential release has damaged confidence in the Parole Board.

Worboys was handed an indeterminate sentence for public protection in 2009 but a minimum term of eight years meant he was considered for release in December.

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