02:37, January 05 336 0 theguardian.com

2018-01-05 02:37:03
John Worboys: reason for freeing 'black-cab rapist' should be public, says Yvette Cooper

The Parole Board should immediately publish its reasons for allowing the release of John Worboys, the rapist who police fear may have had more than 100 victims, MP Yvette Cooper has said.

Cooper, the chairwoman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said she was “really shocked” by the release after serving less than nine years of what could have been an indefinite sentence. She called for scrutiny of the Parole Board’s reasoning before the prolific sex attacker is let out of jail.

She said: “John Worboys’ release after only serving his minimum sentence of eight years is a shocking decision by the Parole Board, and deeply upsetting for the victims who have to live with Worboys’ horrific attack for the rest of their lives.

“There are many serious questions why this dangerous man has been given parole after serving such a short sentence for his attacks against women. Given the seriousness of this case, the Parole Board should publish their reasons immediately so both the decision and the process can be scrutinised before this man is released. We also need to know what information and support was given to all the victims before this decision was taken.”

Worboys, 60, was jailed in April 2009 after a jury convicted him of 19 charges of drugging and sexually assaulting at least 12 women, including raping one of them.

After his conviction, police received further complaints from dozens of women and said that over his 13-year career as a London taxi driver, he could have drugged and attacked more than 100 female passengers.

He was handed an indeterminate sentence with a minimum term of eight years to be served before the parole board could approve his release.

Nine months into his ninth year in prison, a three-person panel cleared him to be freed. He had already served about a year in jail on remand before his trial but even including this period, he will have served less than a year for every woman he was convicted of attacking.

Yvonne Traynor, chief executive of Rape Crisis South London, said the time Worboys spent in jail was “woefully short”.

“It feels far too soon for this dangerous and manipulative perpetrator to be released into the public, having served this woefully short time in prison,” she said.

“He may be free to live among us but the women he raped will never be totally free from his despicable actions.”

An indeterminate sentence does not have a fixed length of time, meaning no date is set for when the person will be released – but they have to spend a minimum amount of time in prison before they are considered for release.

In a statement, the Parole Board said: “We can confirm that a three-member panel of the Parole Board has directed the release of Mr John Worboys, following an oral hearing.

“The arrangements for Mr Worboys’ release will be managed by the Ministry of Justice.”

A government source said that when a prisoner was directed for release by the Parole Board from a category A jail, the secretary of state had no power to block it.

Worboys will be placed on strict licence conditions, including having to report to probation staff every week, and is barred from contacting any of his victims.

The Parole Board is an independent body, although it is sponsored by the Ministry of Justice. The department declined to comment.

It emerged that not all of his victims had been informed of the decision to release him. Lawyer Harriet Wistrich told Channel 4 news the first two of his victims learned of the news was while “listening on the radio, cooking tea for the kids”.

She said: “They’ve both said they’re absolutely sick and disgusted and shocked to the core about it.” It is understood all those who were signed up to the victim contact scheme were informed as soon as the parole board decision was made.

Police repeatedly failed to respond to the complaints of his victims but, after his conviction, senior officers said they would interview Worboys in prison in an attempt to clear up dozens of unsolved sex crimes.

Worboys, from east London, would pick up professional women from the centre of London and Bournemouth in the early hours of the morning. He targeted victims who looked like they had been drinking.

He offered them champagne in his cab, claiming he had won money on the lottery or in a casino. The drinks were spiked with a powerful prescription drug and an over-the-counter medicine, a cocktail that left the women so incapacitated he was able to rape and sexually assault them. When they woke, many of the victims could not remember what had happened.

One victim came round to find Worboys raping her. The following day, Worboys put an envelope through her door containing £10 and a note wishing her a happy Christmas.

Worboys was banned from driving a passenger vehicle for profit. His black cab and a carrier bag filled with £3,680 was forfeited as part of his sentencing.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission identified serious mistakes during the Metropolitan police investigations into Worboys, which allowed him to continue preying on women.

The failures in the cases of Worboys and another serial rapist, Kirk Reid, led the Met to overhaul the way it investigates serious sexual assaults.

Karen Ingala Smith, chief executive of nia, a non-profit organisation that provides services for women, children and young people who have experienced male violence, said: “The police believe that Worboys may have raped more than 100 women, others think this is a conservative estimate.

“He’s served nine years and nine months, that’s just over a month per rape victim. How can we say justice has been served?

“The rehabilitation of offenders is an important principle, but the law should function to protect liberties and rights of the population and I struggle to think anything other than women will be less safe with Worboys on the streets.”

Sophie Walker, leader of the Women’s Equality party, said: “The story of John Worboys is a case study in the failure of the criminal justice system to protect and deliver justice for the victims of sexual violence.

“Police initially believed this prolific predator rather than his victims and, when he was finally put behind bars after five years of attacks, he was convicted of only a small proportion of the crimes police now believe he committed.

“It is right that sentencing guidelines for rape and sexual assault have been toughened since Worboys was convicted but he has served less than a decade for crimes that leave a permanent impact on the victims.

“The parole board may have satisfied itself that he can be prevented from ruining even more lives, but that will come as little comfort to the more than 100 women who he is thought to have attacked.”