A convicted armed robber has lost his High Court bid to halt the selection process of a new chair of the Parole Board – but won a declaration.
Paul Wakenshaw, who has served the minimum term of an indeterminate sentence imposed in October 2009 and is under review, claims that the quasi-judicial body lacks the requisite independence and that he cannot receive a fair hearing.
He seeks a declaration that it is not an objectively fair adjudicative body and, in the meantime, an injunction that would stop the selection process.
The board is seeking a new chair after the March 2018 resignation of Professor Nick Hardwick, following a meeting with Secretary of State for Justice David Gauke in the wake of the controversy over the decision to release black cab rapist John Worboys.
Prof Hardwick announced he was standing down after being told by Mr Gauke that his position was “untenable”.
The decision to release Worboys was overturned by three High Court judges who said the board must make a “fresh determination” in the case of the 61-year-old sex attacker following a challenge by victims.
He was jailed indefinitely in 2009 with a minimum term of eight years after being found guilty of 19 offences, including rape, sexual assault and drugging, committed against 12 victims.
Police believe he committed crimes against 105 women between 2002 and 2008, when he was caught.
On Tuesday in London, Mr Justice Mostyn refused to grant an injunction, saying he was not satisfied that the balance of convenience militated in favour of “such a disruptive remedy”.
But, he did grant Wakenshaw permission to seek a declaration.
He said: “In my judgment, the relatively short period of appointment (three or four years, renewable for three or four years) coupled with the power of the Secretary of State to remove a member if he is satisfied that he or she has failed without reasonable excuse to discharge the functions of his or her office for a continuous period of at least three months, or is unable to discharge the functions of the office, without recourse to any procedure or machinery to determine the merit, or otherwise, of a decision to remove him or her on one or other of these grounds, means that in this regard the provisions for tenure continue to fail the test of objective independence.
“I think that the reasonable, albeit well-informed, observer could conclude that the short term of appointment, coupled with the precarious nature of the tenure, might wrongly influence a decision that had to be made.”
The judge said that an insight into the precarious nature of the tenure was given by Professor Hardwick’s resignation.
There was nothing new about executive interference in the tenure of judges, he added.
“In my judgment it is not acceptable for the Secretary of State to pressurise the chair of the Parole Board to resign because he is dissatisfied with the latter’s conduct.
“This breaches the principle of judicial independence enshrined in the Act of Settlement 1701.
“If the Secretary of State considers that the chair should be removed, then he should take formal steps to remove him pursuant to the terms of the chair’s appointment.”
He added that, if the declaration was made, there would need to be further changes made to the terms of appointment of members.
“I think all that would be needed is to provide for a fully independent and impartial review to examine the merits of a removal.
“That amendment would have to be made available to all existing as well as future members.”