John Worboys appeal: Parole Board secrecy to be scrapped after victims win reversal of decision to release black cab rapist

Justice secretary announces full review of body's rules and plans to create new mechanism to challenge decisions

Jon Sharman
Wednesday 28 March 2018 18:13 BST
Justice Secretary David Guake on Worboys case: ‘The judgement quashes…transparency around decision making’

The veil of secrecy surrounding Parole Board proceedings will be lifted as soon as possible following Parliament’s Easter recess, the justice secretary has announced, after victims of black cab rapist John Worboys successfully appealed against his release.

David Gauke said he would lift the “blanket ban” on transparency under Rule 25 following a High Court ruling on Tuesday that it violated the key principle of open justice.

It means the Parole Board will be able to “make available summaries of the decisions they make to victims”, he told the House of Commons, adding that the Ministry of Justice would review the body’s rules “in their entirety”.

After two of Worboys’ victims were forced to take their case to judicial review in order to challenge the Parole Board’s initial decision to release him, Mr Gauke said he intended to create a new internal review mechanism to allow outcomes to be contested.

Under the plans a judge-led panel of different Parole Board members would re-examine cases if they are queried.

The victims had argued the board overlooked “critical evidence” of Worboys, who now goes by the name John Radford’s wider offending.

Labour’s shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon asked Mr Gauke to “accept responsibility in the failings for the dossier [about Worboys’ offending] presented by the Ministry of Justice” (MoJ), adding that ”there have been widespread failings in this case from the very outset”.

Lawyers for the two victims had earlier said the justice secretary “bears some responsibility” for those failings.

Speaking after Tuesday’s ruling, Phillippa Kaufmann QC said the parole board was “under-resourced” and her junior, Nick Armstrong, added that Mr Gauke had put the body “in the position where it could not discharge its duty properly”.

Mr Gauke said: “It is the case that there was some information that should have been included within [the dossier] that wasn’t provided, but I think it is worth pointing out that it is the responsibility of the Parole Board to satisfy themselves that an offender is no longer a risk to the public.

“It’s also worth reiterating that the National Probation Service opposed the release of John Worboys.”

The High Court’s judgement appeared to cast blame on both the MoJ and Parole Board.

The judges wrote: “In a case which it was known concerned a prisoner who was manipulative, managed impressions and had denied any offending for many years, the Parole Board dossier did not include the prosecution opening, any information, evidence or material bearing on the discovery of the “rape kit” at Mr Radford’s home address, including amongst other things the box of condoms and the strips of Nytol or any police report.

“Although the Parole Board was entitled to make enquiries of the police and, in particular, it was entitled to obtain full details of the gravity of the offending in relation to the index offences, it did not do so.”

The sentencing remarks of the judge in Worboys’ trial were also not included, they said.

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