Release of London Black Cab Rapist John Worboys 'Will Deter Sex Attack Victims From Coming Forward'

A decision to release London black cab rapist John Worboys, thought to be one of Britain's most prolific sex offenders, has prompted anger from victims and sexual violence campaigners.

The former southeast London stripper is believed to have attacked more than 100 women in his taxi after targeting them at night between 2002 and 2008.

He was jailed in 2009 and ordered to serve a minimum of eight years behind bars after being convicted of five sexual assaults, one count of rape and a dozen drugging offences involving 12 women.

No further action was taken in relation to the flood of allegations from other women, however.

Handed an indeterminate sentence, Worboys had been told he would only be released when he was no longer considered a threat to the public.

On Thursday (January 4), the Parole Board confirmed a three-member panel had approved Worboys' release after spending just under 10 years in prison.

His period on licence lasts for at least another 10 years, during which he can be sent back to jail if he breaches the conditions.

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

His release has sparked anger from sexual violence campaigners, who described his time behind bars as "woefully short" and which amounted to less than a year for every woman he was convicted of attacking.

Yvonne Traynor, CEO of Rape Crisis South London, said having a serial sex attacker like Worboys back on the streets so soon after being convicted could deter other rape victims from coming forward.

"If a victim is looking at the news now and sees how this guy had 19 offences against him, got only an eight-year sentence and is now back on the streets—what would they think?" she told Newsweek.

"It's going to deter so many people from coming forward. I can't believe anyone in their right mind could release a serious sex offender after just nine years in prison.

"Someone who can do what he did obviously has narcissistic tendencies, is manipulative and has no conscience whatsoever. I don't think nine years in prison will have changed that mentality."

Sarah Green, from the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said the decision to release Worboys "beggars belief."

"It is likely to be the product of a justice system and a society that cannot and perhaps will not deal with rape," she said.

"Even though the police—who failed horrifically in bringing him to justice—said there are probably more than 100 women victims of John Worboys, he is to be released. No wonder his victims feel shocked and let down."

Some of Worboys' victims were said to have only learnt of the decision from the media.

Lawyer Harriet Wistrich, who represented two women attacked by Worboys, said this included a mother who received the news "while cooking tea for her children."

Another of Worboys' victims, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told Sky News: "I feel shaken up and very upset at the decision."

Worboys' ex-wife, Jean Clayton, 60, said her former husband should never be let out of prison.

"I feel utter disgust. If he hadn't been caught and taken to court he would have murdered somebody. It's very scary," she told The Sun.

Worboys, 60, from Rotherhithe, hid behind the façade of a respectable black cab driver to lure his victims into his vehicle while driving around London in the early hours of the morning.

Claiming he had just won money on the lottery or at the casino, he would offer his female passengers champagne laced with a powerful cocktail of drugs that would allow him to rape or sexually assault them while they lay incapacitated.

Many of his victims could not remember what had happened when they awoke, which detectives said made it difficult to bring a prosecution.

A police spokesman had said at the time: "The difficulty is that a large number of the women do not know whether they were raped or not. The only person who knows is Worboys himself."

While he was jailed for attacks involving only 12 women, the police said since his conviction some 102 women had come forward to make allegations against Worboys, including rape.

Labour MP Yvette Cooper, the chairwoman of the home affairs select committee, condemned Worboys' release and called on the Parole Board to make public the reasons behind its decision.

She said: "John Worboys' release after only serving his minimum sentence of eight years is a shocking decision by the Parole Board, and deeply upsetting for the victims who have to live with Worboys' horrific attack for the rest of their lives.

"There are many serious questions why this dangerous man has been given parole after serving such a short sentence for his attacks against women. Given the seriousness of this case, the Parole Board should publish their reasons immediately so both the decision and the process can be scrutinised before this man is released. We also need to know what information and support was given to all the victims before this decision was taken."

Prof Nick Hardwick, chairman of the Parole Board, said while his staff had a "statutory duty" not to disclose details of hearings to the public, he recognised there is currently a "lack of transparency."

He said a public consultation is due to be launched looking at "how we share our decision making with the public."

Prof Hardwick tried to reassure the public that the Parole Board's decision in relation to Worboys would have been carefully considered.

"We look at a whole range of evidence - both what happened in the original offences, the judge's sentencing remarks, the programmes or work a prisoner has done, reports from people who know the prisoner well," he told the BBC.

"So we look at a whole range of evidence in coming to our decision. And we have to be confident that someone won't re-offend before we release them. And that's what the panel would have done in this case."

The case raises questions over the treatment of rape and sexual assault victims at all stages of the criminal justice process.

The Met Police investigation into Worboys had been found by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) to be strewn with errors, including officers not taking victims seriously.

There was also outcry over how he was given such a "lenient" sentence.

Worboys' jailing for eight years came despite a psychiatric report concluding he was a "repetitive predatory sexual offender" who showed a "significant degree" of deviance.

At the time, Baroness Scotland of Asthal, the former Labour attorney-general, decided against referring the eight-year sentence back to the courts despite it being branded a "disaster" by women's rights campaigners, The Times reported.

A spokeswoman for the Attorney General's Office said: "John Worboys' sentence was considered by the attorney general at the time. There are sentencing guidelines that judges must adhere to and, in this case, the sentence given fell within the guidelines available for this offence at that time."

Labour MP and shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer, who was Director of Public Prosecutions at the time of Worboys' conviction, also faced questions over his part in the CPS' decision not to pursue further charges against Worboys.

He told Sky News: "These decisions were nine years ago. It's very important you go to the Crown Prosecution Service and get an accurate read out of the decisions that were made, particularly if further allegations have been made now."

In response to anger over victims not being told about Worboys' release, the Ministry of Justice said some had chosen not to be updated about the case while others wanted to be informed via a letter, which would have taken longer to arrive.