The impending release of serial sex offender and rapist John Worboys later this month has placed the police investigations into his offending – and decisions taken by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) – under the spotlight.
The former London black cab taxi driver was given an indeterminate sentence for public protection in 2009 after being found guilty on 19 charges of drugging and sexually assaulting several women, in one case raping his victim.
Such sentences were designed to keep prisoners locked up indefinitely unless they proved they were fit for release, but were subsequently abolished in 2012.
The decision to now release him, after just eight years, has understandably been heavily criticised.
Much of the criticism centres around Worboys only facing trial in relation to 14 complainants, despite files relating to 83 women being referred to the CPS following police investigations.
It has been reported that many of the statements of those alleged victims did not pass the ‘evidential threshold’ to go to court, yet The Sunday Times has claimed that at least 26 of the women picked Worboys out as their attacker.
Questions asked as to whether more cases should have been brought
Questions will now be asked as to whether more cases should have been brought against Worboys – prosecutions which would have led to a longer sentence with convictions.
Reports have suggested some women claim their cases were dropped as they were told there was ‘no point’ putting Worboys on trial a second time, as it was assumed he would never be released from prison.
Now, at least eight women are demanding that the CPS re-examine their cases in a bid to see him back in jail.
This situation will almost certainly lead to the original investigations of the police being scrutinised, as will the decisions of the CPS as to which cases to prosecute.
After Worboys’ conviction, police confirmed they had received further 19 complaints from women and said that over his 13-year career as a London taxi driver, they suspected he may have drugged and attacked more than 100 female passengers.
Police were advised at the time by the CPS that it was unlikely to be in the public interest to prosecute Worboys in relation to further allegations of sexual assault or administering a substance with intent, because of the maximum sentence available to the court.
However, the CPS says it advised police to refer any alleged cases of rape, but none were so referred. Just one further file was submitted in respect of one complainant who alleged a sexual assault, which did not pass the evidential test.
Hudgell Solicitors supports call for ‘end-to-end review’ of handling of John Worboys case
Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, Richard Burgon, has called for an independent ‘end-to-end review’, examining the handling of the case right from the first reporting of an attack to the police by a victim through to the parole board hearing which has decided Worboys is fit for release.
He says anything less would be ‘letting down both victims and the wider public’, and this is certainly a view shared by our civil liberties specialists at Hudgell Solicitors.
There needs to be complete clarity on what was uncovered in investigations, and why certain cases were dropped and others pursued. Was enough done in terms of investigating the circumstances of all women who came forward?
If decisions were found to have been taken not to fully investigate other alleged offences, simply because he had already been jailed and handed a sentence which led to assumptions he would be in prison for life, it would be completely unacceptable.
Justice can only be served when all such serious allegations against those accused are fully investigated by the Police and then considered by the CPS, and relevant sentences handed out should they be found guilty in a court of law.
If the cases of the woman now demanding action had been heard, and Worboys had been found guilty of more offences as the police had suspected at the time, it is surely unlikely that he would still be preparing to become a free man again, and that casts serious concerns over the entire case.