Review of Parole Board decision-making process after anger at Worboys release

A review is being launched into how the Parole Board makes its decisions as victims of black cab rapist John Worboys spoke of their "shock" at his imminent release.

The decision to free the serial sex attacker nine years after he was jailed prompted anger from victims, as well as questions around why all of the 102 complainants had not seen their cases brought to trial.

There were also criticisms over a failure to inform some victims of his planned release.

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On Saturday, Justice Secretary David Lidington said he would look at ways to increase transparency in the Parole Board's decision-making process, to ensure victims of sexual assault have "full confidence in the criminal justice system".

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.

"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."

He added discussions have been held "about what changes we could make to help victims of crime and provide greater transparency about the Board's work".

John Worboys' cab
John Worboys' cab

Mr Lidington added that victims' groups would be consulted, and that work would start "now" to ensure decisions on any changes can be taken before Easter.

Worboys, a former stripper and adult film star, was found guilty of 19 charges of drugging and sexually assaulting 12 women passengers, in one case raping a woman.

He was jailed indefinitely in 2009, with a minimum term of eight years.

One victim said finding out that Worboys was to be released from a news report rather than the authorities had left her feeling "cheated and betrayed".

She said: "I never thought Worboys would see the light of day after the terrible offences he committed. I honestly thought he would never be allowed out of prison.

"So I was shocked, shaken and tearful when a friend sent me an email with a link to the story of his imminent release.

"I hadn't been told by the Parole Board and had to find out by looking at a news website which is completely out of order.

"I felt cheated and betrayed. They could have at least sent me a letter."

A day after his release was confirmed, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) explained it had charged Worboys with offences "where it was deemed there was a realistic prospect of conviction".

CPS statement on John Worboys:

-- CPS (@cpsuk) January 5, 2018

The woman added: "I feel like we need to know the reasons why the Parole Board think he is safe enough to release and whether he has admitted to any of the offences he wasn't convicted of."

Chairman of the Parole Board, Professor Nick Hardwick, will be summoned before the House of Commons Justice Committee to explain how the decision for release was reached.

He said: "It is sad that it has taken the Warboys case to get us to this point.

"I hope it will mean that in future we will be able to be more open with victims and the public about our decision making and that provides reassurance that the safety of the public is always uppermost in our minds."

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