John Worboys victim accuses government of 'scapegoating' resigned Parole Board chair

Exclusive: ‘Forcing Nick Hardwick to resign was wrong,’ woman tells The Independent after High Court victory

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Wednesday 28 March 2018 19:47 BST
Justice Secretary David Guake on Worboys case: ‘I have accepted Nick Hardwick’s resignation’

A victim of black cab rapist John Worboys accused the government of “scapegoating” the head of the Parole Board after he was forced to resign.

Nick Hardwick stepped down as High Court judges overturned the decision to release Worboys and condemned officials who failed to properly investigate the scale of his crimes and deception.

The legal challenge was brought by two women – DSD, who was attacked in 2003, and NBV, who was assaulted four years later.

​DSD attended court to see judges rule in their favour and quash the decision to release Worboys, while ruling a Parole Board rule banning the disclosure of information on proceedings to victims unlawful.

But she said there had been “failures all the way through” the legal process, from the original police investigation onwards.

“Forcing Mr Hardwick to resign was wrong because I think he’s been made a scapegoat on this,” the woman told The Independent. “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.

Nick Hardwick said he was told his situation was ‘untenable’

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

Mr Hardwick made it clear he had been forced to step down in a resignation letter, saying the Justice Secretary David Gauke told him his position was “untenable” in a meeting.

“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,” he wrote.

“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.”

The judicial review exposed a series of failings by both the Parole Board and Ministry of Justice, which left vital information out of a dossier used to consider his release.

It referred to more than 80 potential victims, but did not include details of the offences, which were not prosecuted in the original trial that saw Worboys convicted on a sample of 19 crimes against 12 women.

The dossier also omitted sentencing remarks from the judge who jailed him indefinitely for public protection, calling him a “high continuing risk to women and as a significant risk of reoffending”.

Mr Gauke admitted that “it may well have been the case that information should have been included that wasn’t provided”.

But during questioning by MPs in the House of Commons, he placed the blame firmly with the Parole Board for failing to probe the evidence available.

“I think it is right that Professor Hardwick stand down as chair,” he said. “I want to acknowledge that he has been a dedicated public servant and done a number of very good things at the Parole Board, but I do believe at this point that there have been significant failures and new leadership is required.”


 Justice Secretary David Gauke addressing MPs in the House of Commons 
 (PA)

He announced a review of all Parole Board rules and said he had already decided to abolish the unlawful “Rule 25” to allow victims to be given information on the release of prisoners, as well as creating a mechanism to challenge decisions.

DSD called for all victims, not just the 12 whose cases Worboys was jailed for in 2009, to be able to give evidence at the new hearing on his case.

“The next parole hearing will look at everything that is available to them, and they should have done last time,” she said. “Hopefully they will decide that Worboys isn’t fit for release and see through his lies.”

Sir Brian Leveson stressed that the ruling did not have any bearing on the fresh hearing to be held over Worboys’ potential release.

“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,” he said, calling for a judge to chair the new panel.

“We must emphasise that we have not held, nor must we be understood as suggesting, that Worboys’ present risk is such that his continued imprisonment is necessary for the protection of the public.”

Sir Brian said the Parole Board should take the court’s findings into account but the decision “is for it alone to make”.

DSD called for more prosecutions to be brought to ensure that more than 100 women who police believe were attacked by Worboys receive justice.

His attack against her in 2003 was the first to be reported to authorities but Worboys was not imprisoned for another five years, being left to continue picking up women in his taxi, convincing them to consume spiked drinks and sexually assaulting them.

“I would like to see more prosecutions because although the Parole Board’s decision was quashed, at some point in the future I think they will decide he is fit to come out and safe,” DSD said. “I’m thrilled and feel safer, no woman is safe with him free.”

NBV said she had been “frozen in shock, disgusted and traumatised by the thought” that Worboys could be released, feeling compelled to hold authorities to account.

“News that we have won this case finally brought huge relief,” she added. “I can get on with my life again without looking over my shoulder.”

Harriet Wistrich, a solicitor for the two victims, said she has been approached by 10 victims of Worboys during the judicial review, including several who had not previously gone to police.

“As I understand it they are still investigating cases,” she said, including one she referred detailing an alleged attack in 1999 – four years before Worboys was known to have struck.

Ms Wistrich also raised concern that Mr Hardwick had been made a “scapegoat”, adding: “This case from start to finish has illustrated the weakness of our criminal justice system to tackle serious sexual offending, from the failures of the police to adequately investigate; the weakness of CPS decision making selecting only a small number of cases to prosecute; the failure of the Secretary of State to ensure the Parole Board had all the necessary and relevant evidence; the failure of probation to consult all the victims, to ultimately the incomprehensible decision making of the Parole Board itself.”

Scotland Yard refused to confirm or deny whether new investigations were underway, saying it would not provide a “running commentary” and would release information only when the move is “operationally appropriate”.

A spokesperson for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said: “The CPS has been providing early investigative advice to the Metropolitan Police but no files have been submitted for a charging decision.”

DSD was concerned about how Worboys will be monitored if and when he is released and raised fears over resources, adding: “They say he would have very stringent licence conditions, but who has got the time to follow him for 24 hours a day?”

The Parole Board initially imposed conditions including Worboys living permanently at a specific probation hostel and under a curfew, having to notify supervisors of personal relationships with women and being banned from deleting internet history or having a second phone.

The National Probation Service later applied for Worboys to be excluded from Greater London and Sussex, while being monitored using a GPS tag.

Licence conditions will be considered once again when the Parole Board holds another hearing over his potential release, which is not expected to take place for several months.

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