A Supreme Court ruling which today upheld a decision finding the Metropolitan Police failed in its investigations into black cab rapist John Worboys will have far-reaching consequences. Worboys was eventually convicted and jailed in 2009.
Two women however, who reported being assaulted by him in 2003 and 2007, took legal action against the force, alleging it had failed to fully investigate their cases.
In 2014, a judge ruled the force had failed the women and ordered it to pay them more than £40,000 in damages for a breach of their human rights. Until then, police had not been able to be found failing to identify and apprehend an unknown suspect.
The police appealed, arguing its duty had been fulfilled simply by having practices and procedures to investigate in place.
Today, judges in the Supreme Court have upheld the original ruling. It is a decision which could see more forces now face human rights actions for failures to fully investigate allegations of serious violent crime.
Given our work at Hudgell Solicitors, in which we represent victims of repeated and serial offenders, today’s ruling is of significant interest. We are currently representing the families of the four murder victims of the serial killer Stephen Port. This is a significant decision for the families of Anthony, Gabriel, Daniel and Jack – for whom we have begun civil claims against the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) on their behalf.
These include a claim under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights relating to inhumane and degrading treatment. Therefore, I would expect today’s judgment to have a positive bearing on our case. This could also strengthen any claims by survivors assaulted by Port.
Port was initially questioned by officers following the death of Anthony Walgate in June 2014, yet went on to kill three more times in strikingly similar circumstances before being caught. Gabriel Kovari and Daniel Whitworth were killed within three months of Anthony, and Jack Taylor was murdered by Port a year later.
Quite rightly, the case is subject to an ongoing Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) investigation, the findings of which are still to be published,
Today’s ruling will have a significant impact for a number of reasons. Firstly, it will mean forces which fail to fully investigate allegations of violent crime could now also find themselves facing similar civil claims for a breach of human rights. Secondly, and more importantly, it will put new pressure on forces to be more thorough when dealing with each and every such allegation of serious violent crime.
The cases of both Worboys and Port have demonstrated this need, as by the time patterns of allegations were identified and investigated, more people had become victims, more people had been left at risk.
In all such cases serious questions must be asked as to whether everything was done to catch offenders as soon as possible, and whether some victims were let down by failures in investigations – whether that be due to procedures or individuals.
If that is the case – as was ruled today with regards Worboys – it is only right that police forces be held to account too.
Whilst this is a very bad day for the Metropolitan Police Service, as there is likely to be many more claims from victims of violent crime, it is a positive day for victims in their fight for justice.