Justice secretary defends decision not to challenge rapist parole move

Charles Hymas
John Worboys is escorted to the high court - London News Pictures Ltd

David Gaukeyesterday defended his decision not to challenge parole for the black cab rapist John Worboys - as victims called for parole officials to be named.

The Justice Secretary said a judicial review by his department of the original parole decision to release Worboys would have prejudiced a future legal move by the victims to reverse it.

“The advice I received was that I was not well placed to bring a judicial review. If I did then it might have prejudiced the victims from bringing a judicial review,” he said.

As a result, victims had to raise £70,000 through crowd funding to successfully mount a review of the original decision.

This enabled a new parole board this week decide Worboys, who was convicted of 12 attacks, should remain in jail as he still believes “rape is acceptable.”

David Gauke in the Commons Credit: Parliament TV

Harriet Wistrich, a lawyer who represented the two victims in the challenge, said the Justice Secretary had been “conflicted” by the culpability of his department in failing to inform the board of Worboys’ other sexual assaults on more than 100 women.

“The Secretary of State was responsible for that failure,” she said. He was also compromised by having a representative on the original parole board who failed to challenge the decision.

She understood why this conflict could have undermined any judicial review by the ministry but said: “If victims had not come forward, then it is not clear whether anything would have prevented it.”

Carrie Symonds, one of Worboys’ youngest victims, urged Mr Gauke to allow parole board members to be named so they were “accountable to the people they serve.”

“If we name our magistrates and judges who send people to jail, what is the point of concealing the names of Parole Board panel members who decide whether to release them or not?” she said

“We still don’t know was on the original Parole Board panel and why they made the terrible mistake to release John Worboys.”

Justice Secretary David Gauke rejected naming to avoid them being “vilified” but pledged to prevent a repeat by introducing a mechanism to reconsider parole board decisions.

Asked if the multiple rapist should never be released from jail, Mr Gauke said: “If there is evidence that he is a continued risk - as it appears to be the case here - then clearly he should not be freed.”