Now 'Taxi Rapist' John Worboys Has Been Released From Prison We Need To Fix The Parole Laws

I am confident that, unlike during the election in the U.S., we cannot blame infiltration by the Russians for incorrect articles and conversations about the John Worboys case. And so, hopefully, the cloak of incorrect information can be cleared to reveal any genuine target beneath. There may be many targets in this case, but the sentence should not be one of them.

In 2009, black cab driver John Worboys was tried before a jury for 23 offenses. In March 2009, he was convicted of 19 offenses relating to 12 women.

Out of those offenses, one was rape, one was attempted sexual assault, five were sexual assaults and twelve charges related to administering a stupefying drug with intent to commit an indictable offense. Of the 12 women, six gave evidence of sexual offenses and the other six were unable to recall much beyond drinking the alcohol.

The offending was substantive and serious, aggravated by Worboys being in a position of trust in relation to the public through his work as a black cab driver.

However, the judge, whilst not sentencing in a complete vacuum, could not sentence Worboys for complaints or allegations that had not resulted in convictions. Although all the offending was serious, ultimately, the gravest offense for which he fell to be sentenced was rape and there was one conviction of rape.

On April 21, 2009, Worboys was sentenced to imprisonment for public protection (IPP) with a minimum tariff of eight years' imprisonment before he could be considered for parole.

IPPs were an available sentencing tool for judges before they were abolished in December 2012. Their purpose was to require that dangerous, violent and sexual offenders could not be released once they had served their time unless they satisfied the Parole Board that they no longer posed a risk to the public.

As to why we no longer have IPPs, I share the views of politicians across the parties that IPPs were a disastrous sentence and had the effect of keeping prisoners in for much longer than ever had been the intention of the trial judge.

Whatever the views of IPPs, it means that Worboys had an extra barrier to being released and that, upon release, the sentence did not come to an end. Worboys has a further 10 years with restrictions upon his living and thereafter he is on license for life. He can never entirely live freely and remains liable to recall to prison for the rest of his life.

Parole Board's decision

John Worboys
London black cab driver John Worboys was jailed indefinitely in April 2009 after being found guilty of drugging and sexually assaulting 12 women. Met Police

On January 4, the Parole Board confirmed a three-member panel had approved Worboys' release after he spent nearly 10 years in prison.

Did the Parole Board reach the correct decision?

Parole Board hearings are often lengthy and may consider psychiatric evidence as well as evidence from many different sources, including probation officers and offender managers. A prisoner will have undertaken required programs within the prison.Views of victims (or survivors) may be taken into account and they may attend the hearings and give evidence.

In this case, two of the women were not notified of Worboys' release. It is unclear whether any of the women had been notified of or taken part in the Parole Board hearings.

There can be no justification for non-notification. It is particularly appalling in this case as the Metropolitan Police's initial failure to properly investigate Worboys allowed him to remain free to commit further crimes. And so the women's trust in the state already must have been low.

However, we must place our trust in the Parole Board; it had all the information and evidence it required to reach its conclusion and it is confident in its conclusion.

A difficulty is that we cannot know the reasons as to why the Parole Board was so satisfied. This privacy is due to legislation and it is right that it now is being re-examined.

In the meantime, there is no reason why the Parole Board cannot create greater transparency around its procedures so that its methods can be better understood.

But if justice is in the dock, as headlines have screamed, she would point to the jury having convicted Worboys on one rape rather than over a hundred; the Judge having sentenced according to his powers; the prosecution having considered that the sentence was appropriate; the Attorney General having considered that there was no appeal; the prisoner having served a decade in a tough prison environment; and the Parole Board having acted according to detailed evidence in reaching its decision.

Justice also may ask politicians to stop using the criminal justice system for target practice, and convert their arrows into writing clear explanations about the merits and workings of the legislation it has passed.


Kirsty Brimelow QC is the head of the Doughty Street's International Human Rights Team and part of the Doughty Street Equalities Team. You can follow her on Twitter.