Daily Telegraph, Friday 5 January 2018
Most sexual predators get away with their crimes. The notorious serial rapist John Worboys was very nearly one of them, remaining free to drug and assault women in his black London cab for more than a decade. More than a hundred women have told the police that Worboys attacked them, but only 12 of those cases ever came to court.
Now, in a move that has caused widespread outrage, it has been revealed that 60-year-old Worboys will be released from prison later this month. It is a slap in the face for his victims who learned about the decision, in at least two cases, via news bulletins.
But it is worse than that, sending a message to women everywhere that the criminal justice system is still failing in its approach to even the most egregious sexual predators. Worboys is from east London and in a matter of weeks he will be free to live in the same city as his victims, most of whom never had the satisfaction of seeing him held to account for his violence against them.
When the former cabbie was convicted of 19 offences in 2009, his crimes were deemed so heinous that he was given an indeterminate sentence, with a minimum tariff of eight years. Many of us believe he belongs in that small category of offenders who pose such a danger to women that he should never be released. Yet he is being let out after serving just under ten years – less than a year for each of the 12 women he was convicted of attacking.
The police believe that Worboys’s convictions, like those of other convicted rapists, represent only a fraction of his crimes. If the women who came forward after his arrest are included in his catalogue of offences, he will have served roughly a month for each victim by the time he leaves jail.
Some of his victims have said they are ‘absolutely sick and disgusted and shocked to the core’ by news of his impending release. A number of MPs, including the chair of the home affairs select committee, Yvette Cooper, have demanded to know how the Parole Board came to its decision. ‘There are many serious questions why this dangerous man has been given parole after serving such a short sentence for his attacks against women’, she said.
As a black cab driver, Worboys was in a position of trust, which he abused in a series of carefully planned attacks. He even prepared props in advance, including a bag of what appeared to be cash, to bolster his story that he had had a big win on the lottery or in a casino. When a woman got into his cab, he would invite her to have a glass of champagne spiked with a combination of prescription and over-the counter-drugs. His victims were so incapacitated that he was then able to rape and sexually assault them.
This is the modus operandi of a very dangerous man, who showed no remorse or sympathy for his victims. He was helped by the failings of the Metropolitan Police, whose botched investigation into the Worboys case was later criticised by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
Some of his victims did report him, long before he was finally charged, but officers decided to believe Worboys on the grounds that a black-cab driver ‘would not commit such an offence’. They failed to search his home for evidence and made no attempt to corroborate the women’s accounts, leaving Worboys at large to target more victims.
The shortcomings identified by the IPCC report in 2010 exposed ‘systemic’ problems in rape investigations. Little did his victims know that they would be let down again, eight years later, by the Parole Board’s astonishing decision to recommend Worboys’s release. It will have taken into account only his actual convictions, rather than allegations which were not tested in court, but that raises two urgent questions.
Why does the board believe that a man who attacked 12 women with such a degree of calculation is no longer a risk to the public? And why was a decision taken not to bring further charges against Worboys, based on the huge number of allegations made after his arrest and conviction?
The criminal justice system is often accused of systemic failings in the way it deals with violence against women. Earlier this week Theodore Johnson, 64, pleaded guilty to murdering his former partner who was unaware, when she met him, that he had already served short sentences for killing his wife and another partner.
Now one of the country’s worst serial rapists is to be set free after serving an absurdly lenient prison sentence. Can we really believe that this country’s legal system is doing its job of protecting women from patently dangerous men?