06:56, January 07 290 0 theguardian.com

2018-01-07 06:56:03
May urges greater Parole Board transparency following John Worboys case

Theresa May has called for greater transparency in Parole Board decisions on releasing prisoners such as the serial sex offender John Worboys.

In a television interview on Sunday morning, the prime minister supported demands for victims to be given more information about when and why their attackers are to be let out of jail.

The justice secretary, David Lidington, is to conduct a review of Parole Board procedures following the furore over the freeing of the former black-cab driver who is believed to have drugged and assaulted more than 100 women.

Appearing on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, May declined to comment on her role when home secretary in intervening in a supreme court case on the side of the police against two of Worboys’ victims who are seeking compensation.

“The Parole Board operates independently,” the prime minister said, “but I think it’s right that we as a government are saying that we should look at the question of openness and that we should look at this whole issue too of how victims are kept in touch with … what is happening.

“My instinct is that people do want to know more about why decisions are taken in the way that they’re taken … Let’s look at this properly ... but I fully recognise why people are concerned about this.”

May revealed that she personally knew “somebody who was one of [Worboys’] victims and who was not contacted and first heard of what was happening through the media.”

May was asked why, as home secretary, she backed police through a succession of court challenges against two women whose complaints were not taken seriously by officers and endured “an appalling experience” at the hands of the Metropolitan police.

The prime minister said she would not comment on “individual cases”, adding “it’s for the courts to determine what is right”. The supreme court is due to rule on their compensation claim in the coming weeks.

May said her main concern was to “ensure that we give people the confidence to be able to report these crimes, make these allegations for them to be properly investigated and then the right and proper action to be taken.”

Legislative changes might be needed in order to deliver greater transparency to Parole Board decisions, she conceded.

In a separate statement, Lidington said it was vital 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% since 2010 and more victims are coming forward,” he added, “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.”

Lidington said he had talked to the victims commissioner, Helen Newlove, and the chair of the Parole Board, Nick Hardwick, about what changes could be made 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,” he said.