The parole system was in crisis yesterday after top judges attacked the decision to free black cab rapist John Worboys (pictured)
The parole system was in crisis yesterday after top judges attacked the decision to free black cab rapist John Worboys.
In a scathing ruling, they cited basic failures in the Parole Board’s handling of the case.
They said the 60-year-old’s claim that he posed no risk had ‘not been probed to any extent, if at all’.
The fiasco led to the sacking yesterday of the board’s chief, left a minister on the brink and sparked fears that the whole parole system might not be fit for purpose.
Ministers last night ordered an urgent review into recent decisions to release six other dangerous criminals straight from top-security prisons.
The order to free Worboys was overturned only after two of the predator’s victims won their case at a crowd-funded judicial review.
Three High Court judges found that the Parole Board failed to carry out ‘basic lines of inquiry’ to determine whether the former taxi driver, who is said to have attacked more than 100 women, was still a danger.
As the decision was announced, Parole Board chairman Nick Hardwick (pictured) was forced to resign in disgrace
As the decision was announced, Parole Board chairman Nick Hardwick was forced to resign in disgrace.
But Justice Secretary David Gauke was fighting to keep his job with lawyers for the victims suggesting he should also be held accountable.
Mr Gauke turned down the chance to bring a judicial review himself, and authorised the use of taxpayers’ money to defend the right of the Parole Board to cloak its decision in total secrecy.
Tory MP Anna Soubry said she was seeking reassurances ‘that there are not other instances where the Parole Board has released people who we deemed to be dangerous in circumstances where they should not be’.
Another Conservative MP, Julian Lewis, said the crisis ‘illustrates the fact that there is a culture of consideration for rapists and murderers that puts the public gravely at risk’.
The killers set free to strike again
The Parole Board has been in the dock many times before, with a string of killers released only to kill again…
THE GIRLFRIEND KILLER
Paul O’Hara murdered new girlfriend Cherylee Shennan in 2014 two years after he was freed early from a life term for killing his ex Janine Waterworth, whose parents said their protests that he was still dangerous were ignored by the Parole Board.
THE THUGS WHO MET IN JAIL
Stephen Unwin and William McFall, were jailed this week for raping and murdering a young Vietnamese mother who they had tortured for four hours. They met while serving life for killing OAPs during burglaries. Each was paroled after only 13 years.
THE ADDICT KILLER
Long-term drug addict George Johnson killed a hotel worker in 1986 for just £3. Freed in 2006, he battered to death an 89-year-old widow five years later to steal £25 to feed his heroin and crack cocaine habit.
THE ‘DEVILS’S CHILD’
Damien Hanson murdered a banker in 2004, three months after winning parole. He was seven years into a 12-year term for trying to kill a teenage boy. Known as ‘the Devil’s Child’, he was freed despite a report saying he was a 91 per cent reoffending risk.
THE BODYBUILDING KILLER
Fitness fan Douglas Vinter knifed his wife Ann White to death after kidnapping her and holding her hostage in 2008. They had married soon after he was freed in 2005 – just ten years into a life sentence for murdering a workmate in a railway cabin.
Stephen Unwin (right) and William McFall (left), were jailed this week for raping and murdering a young Vietnamese mother
In other developments:
- Worboys’ victims told of their relief at the court’s ruling and spoke of anger at the official failures;
- The judges said the Parole Board ignored a dossier referring to dozens more victims and questioned Worboys for only 50 minutes;
- They ordered the board to reassess the case – with Worboys to remain in jail until a decision is made;
- The rapist is said to have duped the three-strong panel by claiming he had found religion and lying by insisting he started attacking women only after being dumped by a girlfriend;
- Mr Gauke survived a bruising day with a vote of confidence from Theresa May before announcing emergency measures to shore up confidence in the Parole Board;
- Police were urged to open fresh investigations into Worboys after another ten women came forward claiming they were also victims.
George Johnson killed a hotel worker in 1986 for just £3. Freed in 2006, he battered to death an 89-year-old widow five years later
Fury over the Worboys case erupted in January after the Parole Board ruled that he should be released from top-security HMP Wakefield.
Worboys had been jailed indefinitely, with a minimum term of eight years, in 2009 for drugging and sexually assaulting women passengers in and around London.
The former stripper was convicted of 19 offences relating to 12 women but police have linked the prolific offender to more than 100 attacks.
The decision to release him after such a short term in jail sparked outrage, but Mr Gauke declined the opportunity to launch a legal challenge, claiming it would be ‘inappropriate’ for him to act.
As a result, a judicial review was eventually brought by two women, identified in court only as DSD and NBV.
Delivering their verdict on the women’s challenge yesterday, three High Court judges said that neither the Parole Board nor the psychologists involved in assessing Worboys for release had appeared to have questioned whether his honesty was genuine.
Justice Secretary David Gauke (pictured) was fighting to keep his job with lawyers for the victims suggesting he should also be held accountable
They said the Parole Board had also failed to question why Worboys had paid £241,000 in compensation to 11 women, despite admitting attacking only three of them.
Instead, the Parole Board had claimed that Worboys had ‘learnt to be open and honest’ and had shown ‘good insight’ into his offending.
Mr Gauke said he had ordered officials to ‘look closely’ at the six other cases to check if there were any concerns about the decisions – raising the prospect of the criminals being sent back behind bars.
On Worboys, he apologised to the victims and said there should have been much greater testing of the case he made.
Lawyers for the two women said the Ministry of Justice had failed in its responsibility to ensure all relevant material was highlighted to the Parole Board.
Phillippa Kaufmann QC said Mr Hardwick’s resignation was ‘very disappointing’, adding: ‘It looks as though he’s been scapegoated.’
Worboys was convicted in 2009 but continued to protest his innocence and had asked the Criminal Cases Review Commission to look at his case.
But in May 2015 – nine months before he would become eligible for parole after serving his minimum term – he dramatically admitted he had carried out the attacks he had been convicted of, but not the other allegations.
The Parole Board decides whether prisoners serving life or indeterminate sentences for public protection, fixed-length sentences of four years or more and some violent criminals who have reoffended should be released.
In 2016-17, it carried out 25,204 parole hearings, including 7,377 oral hearings. Of the 5,184 oral hearings concluded, 48 per cent led to releases.