05:47, January 05 363 0 theguardian.com

2018-01-05 05:47:03
Why is John Worboys being released after less than 10 years?

The Parole Board decision to recommend the serial sex attacker John Worboys for release has provoked outrage and criticism across the political spectrum.

Worboys, one of the UK’s most persistent sexual offenders, has served just under 10 years in prison, including time he spent on remand ahead of his trial for attacks on 12 women involving rape, assaults and drugging.

However, police fear he may have had as many as 100 victims. Here we take a look at how Worboys is ending up with what many view as an unduly lenient punishment.

Who is John Worboys?

John Worboys, now 60, was a London black-cab driver at the time of his arrest in July 2007. He also drove the car in Poole, Dorset. He had previously worked as a stripper and an adult film actor. He was in a relationship at the time of his arrest and had previously been married.

For which offences was he convicted?

Worboys, at the age of 51, was convicted of one count of rape, five sexual assaults, one attempted assault and 12 drugging charges committed from July 2007 to February 2008. He had denied all the offences and was also cleared of two drugging charges.

He offered the women 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.

After his conviction, police received at least 85 complaints from other women and said they feared he had as many as 100 victims. However, no further prosecutions have been brought against him.

What was his sentence?

Worboys was given a sentence on 21 April 2009 known as imprisonment for public protection (IPP). The home secretary introduced IPPs in 2003. The sentences were designed to imprison serious offenders, mostly sex offenders, who were perceived to be a risk to the public but could not be punished with a life sentence.

Criminals sentenced to an IPP would be given a minimum tariff before they were eligible for consideration by the Parole Board for release, but in theory could be kept in prison indefinitely as long as the Parole Board believed they still posed a threat. Worboys’ tariff was one of eight years.

The IPP sentences have been widely derided, but not due to examples of early release. In 2012, IPPs were abolished under the coalition government due to a Strasbourg court ruling that they violated human rights. Thousands of prisoners ended up languishing in prison beyond their minimum tariffs waiting for a release date.

By 2010 there were approximately 10,000 prisoners serving IPP sentences, more than 10 times more than intended when they were first introduced.

Why is he being released?

The Parole Board is able to assess the continued risk posed by prisoners based on psychiatrist and prison guard reports at Parole Board hearings that take place around once a year for each offender. Some of the hearings are oral, some of them written.

In November, a three-person panel of the Parole Board directed the release of Worboys, following an oral hearing. He will be released back into society under strict monitoring on a licence period of at least 10 years.

Parole Board hearings are held in private and reasons for release are not made public, although a consultation is to be launched on how the body shares its decision-making with the public.

Can the decision to release him be reversed?

The Parole Board is an independent body and its recommendation for Worboys’ release can not be overturned by the Ministry of Justice.

There are examples of Parole Board decisions being challenged by judicial review in the courts, but only when the prisoner has been denied release.

What about the other alleged victims?

In light of Worboys’ imminent release, there is now increased pressure on the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to explain why it did not bring further criminal proceedings in relation to complaints made by as many as 100 women who came forward after his 2009 trial.

To bring charges, the allegations would have to pass an evidential test.

Keir Starmer, now the shadow Brexit secretary, was the director of public prosecutions (DPP) at the time the allegations emerged and is reported to have been behind the decision not to pursue them.

Following criticism in the rightwing press, Starmer said the CPS held the file on this case and urged questions to be directed to them.