Justice Secretary orders review of Parole Board transparency following outrage at Worboys decision

'I believe there is a strong case to review how to allow greater openness about the decision-making process,' says David Lidington

Rachel Roberts
Sunday 07 January 2018 01:36
John Worboys was found guilty in 2009 of sexually assaulting 12 women - but police believe he could have attacked more than 100
John Worboys was found guilty in 2009 of sexually assaulting 12 women - but police believe he could have attacked more than 100

Justice Secretary David Lidington has ordered a review of how the Parole Board presents its decisions, following the controversial approval of John Worboys‘ release from prison.

Worboys, 60, has served less than nine years of what could have been an indefinite sentence for multiple sexual offences against women.

Mr Lidington said the Government considered it a priority that victims of sexual attacks had “full confidence”.

He said: “John Worboys was convicted of horrific crimes. My thoughts and unreserved sympathy are with his victims for whom news of the Parole Board’s decision to order Worboys’ release must have reawakened the most appalling memories.

“It is a priority for this government that victims of rape and sexual assault have full confidence in the criminal justice system. While sentence lengths for these horrific crimes have increased by over 30 per cent since 2010 and more victims are coming forward, there is still more to do.

“While it is right that the Parole Board should remain an independent body, I believe that there is a strong case to review how to allow greater openness about the decision-making process.

“We also need to make sure arrangements across the criminal justice system ensure victims are both heard and, if they wish, kept informed about their case.

“I have talked to the Victims’ Commissioner, Baroness Newlove, and the Chair of the Parole Board, Nick Hardwick, about what changes we could make to help victims of crime and provide greater transparency about the Board’s work.

“I want to make sure we consult victims groups and others, and to start this work now so that decisions can be taken before Easter.”

The Justice Secretary’s intervention follows widespread anger after at least two of Worboys’ victims found out about his impending release from news reports.

Worboys was given an indefinite term in 2009 and told he must serve a minimum of eight years after he was convicted of 19 charges of drugging and sexually assaulting 12 women and raping one of his victims.

Following his trial – where he pleaded not guilty to all 23 counts against him – police received further reports from 19 women, but none resulted in further prosecutions.

In total, 102 women made allegations against Worboys, whose modus operandi was to claim he had won the lottery and offer his female passengers a glass of champagne which he had laced with sedatives. Many of his victims were left with little memory of what he had done to them.

Labour said the promise by Mr Lidington was insufficient and called for a more wide-ranging “end-to-end” inquiry into the handling of the case.

Shadow Justice Secretary Richard Burgon said: “The case raises so many serious questions that anything less than an independent end-to-end review – examining the handling of the case right from the first reporting of an attack to the police by a victim, through to the parole board hearing – will be letting down both victims and the wider public.”

One of Worboys’ victims has said she feels “shocked, shaken and tearful” that he is about to be released, partly because she believes he still poses a danger to women.

The Parole Board announced this week that a panel has approved the release of the prolific sex offender with “stringent” licence conditions attached.

Officials said regulations prevent them from disclosing the reasoning behind such decisions.

The lawyer acting for several of Worboys’ alleged victims has said they are seeking fresh prosecutions against him to see him returned to prison.

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