05:02, February 21 112 0 theguardian.com

2018-02-21 05:02:05
John Worboys' victims win human rights case against police

Two victims of John Worboys have won their claim for compensation from the Metropolitan police after the supreme court ruled that the force had failed to carry out an effective investigation into the serial sex attacker.

The landmark judgment sets a significant precedent for police liability in future cases by allowing victims to argue that they have been subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment under article 3 of the European convention on human rights.

The claim was brought by two of Worboys’ earliest victims, who reported their attacks to the police in 2003 and 2007. Due to what the court said were significant errors, officers failed to charge the London black-cab driver at that stage.

A review of sexual assault cases by the police in 2008 finally identified Worboys’ pattern of drugging and assaulting female passengers. After his conviction, police said they believed as many as 100 women may have been attacked.

Delivering his judgment on Wednesday, Lord Kerr said previous decisions by the European court of human rights in Strasbourg “establish that the state is obliged under article 3 to conduct an effective investigation into crimes which involve serious violence to persons, whether they have been carried out by state agents or individual criminals.

“… In order that the protective right should be practical and effective, an individual who has suffered ill-treatment contrary to article 3 has a right to claim compensation against the state where there has been a failure by state authorities to conduct a sufficient investigation into the crime.”

However, Kerr qualified that right by pointing out that “simple errors or isolated omissions will not give rise to a violation of article 3 … only conspicuous or substantial errors in investigation would qualify”.

He added: “The prospect of every complainant of burglary, car theft or fraud becoming the subject of an action under the Human Rights Act has been raised. I do not believe that this is a serious possibility.”

The two women in the case remain anonymous and are known only as DSD and NBV. They were initially awarded compensation by the high court totalling £41,250 for the police failures. The Met police failed to overturn the awards in successive appeals and the supreme court decision will open the way for many of Worboys’ other victims to claim damages.

They have also brought separate judicial review proceedings in the high court against the Parole Board, challenging the decision to release Worboys after 10 years in jail.


Why is John Worboys being released and can the decision be reversed?

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.

The Parole Board is an independent body and its recommendation for Worboys’ release cannot 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.

Read a fuller explainer on John Worboys

The 60-year-old was convicted in March 2009 of 19 offences against 12 women, including one count of rape.