Pressure was mounting on the Justice Secretary last night for refusing to share blame for failings in the black cab rapist case.
The sacked head of the Parole Board said David Gauke should ‘accept responsibility for mistakes’ which led to John Worboys being approved for release from prison.
Nick Hardwick said Ministry of Justice officials omitted crucial details about the sexual predator’s history from a dossier used in the decision, and the Parole Board was ‘no more at fault’ than the MoJ.
Sacked Parole Board head Nick Hardwick (left) said that Justice Secretary David Gauke (right) should ‘accept responsibility for mistakes’
Black cab rapist John Worboys is to stay in jail for now following landmark legal action by two of his victims
Mr Gauke is already under fire for indicating he might bring a judicial review to challenge the board’s decision before backing down on the grounds he was unlikely to win
63 dangerous inmates released straight onto the streets in a year
A total of 63 prisoners in Category A high-security jails like Wakefield were released directly into the community in the 12 months to March 31 2017.
But figures show that over the financial year 2016/17, 57 of these prisoners were on Category A jails after being recalled, either from lower-category jails or after having been released completely.
Last night David Gauke, the Justice Secretary, demanded a list of all Category A prisoners released directly into the community – rather than spending time in an open jail first.
While acknowledging 57 prisoners have been recalled back to prison, he has asked for the specific details of six Category A prisoners, considered an ‘exceptional risk’ of escaping, who have already been released straight to an ‘approved premise’, colloquially called a ‘halfway house’.
The parole board had approved a similar plan for Worboys despite the fact he was a predatory sex attacker who police believe assaulted more than 100 women while working as a black cab driver in London.
It came as pressure grew on the Justice Secretary amid claims he had made the Parole Board chairman a ‘scapegoat’ for his own department’s mistakes.
The row follows Wednesday’s High Court ruling backing a legal challenge by victims that the Parole Board had wrongly assessed Worboys on the basis of 19 crimes he was convicted of, instead of the 100-plus allegations against him.
The secret hearing that cleared Worboys for release took place in November when David Lidington was Justice Secretary.
Mr Gauke, appointed in January, responded to the court ruling by sacking Mr Hardwick.
Mr Hardwick told the BBC: ‘The Secretary of State should, as I have done, accept responsibility for mistakes that were made. That’s the only way that things will be put right.
‘I absolutely accept that the Parole Board was at fault … I don’t accept we were any more at fault than the Ministry of Justice and I don’t believe the right lessons will be learned from this case if the only people accepting any responsibility for what went wrong here is us.
‘The dossier that the panel received … didn’t contain information, or sufficient information, about those other alleged offences and therefore the panel didn’t consider them.’
He said the Justice Secretary’s representative, who was at the hearing, ‘did not suggest the panel should have considered those other matters’.
He added: ‘I am not going to shift the blame on to people who work for me. I accept my share of responsibility – others should do so too.’
Yvette Cooper, chairman of the Commons home affairs committee, said there had been a ‘failure by both the Parole Board and the Ministry of Justice to appreciate the gravity of this case’
Worboys’ black cab (pictured) was used to pick up victims who were offered cut price fares
Mr Gauke is already under fire for indicating he might bring a judicial review to challenge the board’s decision before backing down on the grounds he was unlikely to win. It meant that two victims were left to bring the challenge.
The 336-page dossier compiled by the MoJ did not contain sentencing remarks by the judge at Worboys’s trial, a psychiatric report from the time, nor mention a ‘rape kit’ found in his car containing condoms, sedatives and champagne.
The Parole Board decided Worboys was safe to release as he had been ‘open and honest’ about reasons for his offending.
An MoJ spokesman said Mr Gauke had apologised for the department’s failings, in a statement on Wednesday. She added: ‘The Secretary of State expressed sympathy for the victims and praised them for their courage and persistence.’
Yvette Cooper, chairman of the Commons home affairs committee, said there had been a ‘failure by both the Parole Board and the Ministry of Justice to appreciate the gravity of this case’.
Yesterday Mr Gauke said he will scrap Rule 25, which lets the Parole Board keep secret the reasons for its judgments.
The High Court has said the rule breaches basic principles of open justice. In future, summaries of the board’s decisions to release convicts will be available to victims.
Figures show that in 2016/17, 63 prisoners were released from Category A jails. Of these, 57 were criminals recalled to prison, which can occur when parole is breached.