08:07, January 05 244 0 theguardian.com

2018-01-05 08:07:03
First thoughts  
 Keep John Worboys locked up. It’s the least women deserve

The Parole Board decision that the sexual predator John Worboys is to be released after just over nine years in prison is nothing short of a scandal. Jailed for sexual assault, rape, and drugging offences in 2009, the Worboys case laid bare the endemic police complacency in investigating sexual assault, as well as the culture of disbelief when young women come forward who were drinking and “out for a good time”. In order to make their decision, the Parole Board had to assess whether this man was still “a danger to the public”. They must have decided that he is not.

To date, 105 women have reported their suspicion that Worboys drugged and raped them during his reign of terror, and there are more who will not be able to face doing so. Police have previously commented that they believe the toll is likely to be as high as 200 victims. Why has the Parole Board taken this decision, despite a pre-sentencing report in 2009 finding that Worboys was “a repetitive predatory sexual offender”? What has changed? Worboys has never admitted to any further attacks, and in fact, in 2010, unsuccessfully appealed against his conviction, which suggests he was denying his guilt for even those crimes he was convicted of.

Why did the CPS under Keir Starmer, the then director of public prosecutions, decide that it was “not in the public interest” to put Worboys on trial after these new witnesses came forward following a police appeal? It was said at the time that Worboys was already serving an indeterminate sentence (with no definite period of time set during sentencing), implying that there was no need to up the ante. But had Worboys been tried for a few dozen more rapes and convicted for at least some, it is likely he would have served several more years before any Parole Board would have even considered him fit for release. I have spoken to two of the women who reported Worboys, but were told he would not stand trial for his offences against them. One told me she had has a permanent pain in her gut since the day she realised he had got away with what he did to her.

In sentencing Worboys in 2009, the judge said that he would not be released until a parole board decides he no longer presents a threat to women. As such, the reasoning behind this board’s decision should be made public. How has it been determined that he no longer poses a threat to women and girls?

Worboys’ former wife, Jean Clayton, understands how dangerous this man is. Clayton and Worboys married in 1991. On hearing of his imminent release, Clayton said she was “disgusted” and said she’d always believe that had he not been sent to prison for the rapes he could have gone on to murder someone.

During the trial, we heard horrific details from those victims who had their day in court. They spoke of waking up terrified, vomiting and feeling disorientated with total memory loss. Others noticed heavy bruises on their legs, breasts and genital area. One woman could not work out why her tampon was missing. Another came round from her drug-induced sleep to find her skirt pushed to her waist, only to hear from police later in the investigation that she had been forcibly penetrated with a vibrator.

Some of the women spoke of how Worboys became aggressive when they refused to take a drink from him. Others were forcibly kissed, as he held on to their hair so they couldn’t move. A 19-year-old victim was asked if she would drink a glass of vodka for £50, and when she agreed, he tried to pressure her to give him oral sex for £250. Worboys forced pills into one woman’s mouth as she desperately struggled to get away. He tried to lure at least one woman into taking part in a pornographic film. One of his victims had given birth only weeks before, and was out on her first night out since having her baby.

I want Worboys to stay in prison, not out of any sense of revenge, but because he is still a danger to women. It is hard enough to get a conviction for rape in the first place – why release one of Britain’s worst sex offenders, especially when there are scores of women who have never had justice for his attacks on them?

What does the Parole Board decision say to other men that consider rape to be a leisure activity? What does it say to women who have been raped but were never believed, or whose rapists who evaded prison? Worboys is a rare example of a rapist who actually ends up in prison. Why release him early? I can’t think of a better example of a man who should stay locked up for a very long time. Some women who are convicted of making false allegations of rape are treated more harshly than serial rapists. Take the case of Jemma Beale, who had claimed she had been sexually assaulted by a number of men over a period of three years. Last year Beale was jailed for 10 years.

The widespread disgust at the news of Worboys’ release is not a kneejerk hang-’em-and-flog-’em response. I believe in rehabilitation, and consider prison to be appropriate only for those too dangerous to live among the general public. Are women not included in the general public? I say, keep him locked up. It is the least his numerous victims, and all women, deserve.

Julie Bindel is a freelance journalist and political activist, and a founder of Justice for Women