PAROLE BOARD: Review ‘A Priority’ After Worboys Case Says New Justice Secretary

davidgaukeThe Parole Board followed “the correct procedures” when informing the victims of “black cab rapist” John Worboys of his release.

However, Justice Secretary David Gauke told MPs the fact that some of the women learned of the decision from the media meant there was a need to review procedures.

Mr Gauke, speaking in the Commons, confirmed that as a “priority” there would be a review of the procedures and transparency of the Parole Board.

The newly appointed Justice Secretary told MPs that the review would report back before Easter.

The decision to free Worboys nine years after he was jailed has prompted dismay from victims, as well as questions around why not all of the 102 complainants had seen their cases brought to trial.

Mr Gauke said: “I express my unreserved sympathy to all of the victims; they will never erase the emotional trauma of his crimes and the Parole Board’s decision to order his release must have brought back painful memories.

“On the basis of the information I’ve received since arriving in the department yesterday, it appears, in relation to these victims, those who opted to remain in contact with the VCS (Victim Contact Scheme) were informed of the parole hearing.

“Of the victims currently in contact with the scheme, those who chose to be informed of the Parole Board decision by phone or email were contacted immediately on January 3rd.”

He added: “However, while it appears that the correct procedures were followed, the fact that some victims learned of the decision from the media suggests that there is a need to review these procedures and examine whether lessons can be learned and improvements can be made.

“There is a strong case to review case for transparency in the process for parole decisions and how victims are appropriately engaged in that process and consider the case for changes in policy, practice or the Parole Board rules or other guidance or procedures including the Victims’ Code.”

Shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon said the Worboys case “underlined once and for all” the need for more transparency.

“It’s all too clear that victims of the vile crimes committed by John Worboys feel that this process has failed to do so and such failings risk undermining public trust in our wider justice system,” he said.

“Many women, both the victims and others more widely, will be very anxious indeed about Mr Worboys being freed, and the current legal restrictions on the Parole Board mean that we do not know why this decision was taken.

“I would say, with respect, we don’t need actually to debate whether there is a case for greater transparency; the Worboys case has underlined once and for all that there is a need for greater transparency.”

Richard Scorer, a specialist abuse lawyer from Slater and Gordon, which represented 11 of Worboys’ victims, echoed the concerns of Tory former minister Anna Soubry who on Monday sought assurances that women would be safe upon his release.

Mr Scorer said: “Our clients are becoming more concerned by the day about Worboys’ imminent release.

“The terrifying fact is that their attacker knows where they live after he dropped them home and wrote some of their addresses down in a notebook.

“They are living in fear that he will come after them once he gets out.”

He added: “Our clients want to be told what restrictions are being put on his movement as part of his licence and how the authorities are aiming to ensure this serial rapist does not attack again.

“Unfortunately, after the past few days our clients now have little faith that the criminal justice system will keep them safe.”

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