Just how dangerous is “Black Cab Rapist” John Worboys?

Police-issued photo of “Black Cab Rapist” John Worboys

The Parole Board have decided that John Worboys can be released from his indeterminate sentence. He was convicted at Croydon Crown Court on 13 March 2009 of one count of rape, five sexual assaults, one attempted assault and 12 drugging charges, committed between July 2007 and February 2008.

The judge, Mr Justice Penry-Davey, handed down an indeterminate sentence, and said that Worboys should serve at least eight years. Worboys was not to be released, he said, until the parole board decided he no longer presented a threat to women. He was also banned from driving a passenger vehicle for profit.

News reports this afternoon say that Worboys is believed to have committed more than 100 offences. Normally, this would be a dangerous thing to say: there is a risk of a defamation claim (although a convicted predatory rapist would have difficulty persuading a court that he had a good reputation that was capable of being damaged). But in this case, it is inherently safe to say that Worboys committed more than 100 offences: because the High Court said that he did.

The finding of fact is contained in a judgment handed down by Mr Justice Green in the case of DSD & NBV v The Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis [2014] EWHC 436 (QB) – a claim against the Metropolitan Police by two of Worboys victims, alleging that the Met breached their duty of care in their botched investigation. It is widely accepted – including by the Met – that had the Met handled some cases differently, a large number of rapes would not have happened. Worboys would have already had been arrested.

We do not know why the Parole Board found that a man who committed more than 100 carefully pre-prepared rapes and sexual assaults is a safe person to be released. There seems, to me, to be a lack of punishment in the actual sentence that Worboys will have served by the time he is released.

It is clear to me that Worboys is a dangerous individual. Anybody who has committed as many rapes and sexual assaults as he has cannot be considered anything but dangerous.

Here are some extracts from Mr Justice Green’s judgment:

Paragraph 1: This case concerns a claim for declarations and damages brought by two victims of the now convicted “black cab rapist” – John Worboys – who over the course of 2002 – 2008 committed well in excess of 100 rapes and sexual assaults on women whom he was carrying in his cab.

Paragraph 19: It is apparent from evidence given at trial that although 105 victims came forward, and are accepted by the police as having been subjected to assault by Worboys, these may represent only a portion of those actually assaulted.

Paragraph 40: In the period between 2003 and 2008 Worboys perpetrated in excess of 100 assaults and rapes. Only a small minority of these however were reported to police.

Paragraph 84: On 17th October 2008 Worboys entered not guilty pleas at a PCMH and the trial was set for 20th January 2009. The trial continued until Friday 13th March 2009 when he was convicted of 19 counts of rape, attempted sexual assault, 4 sexual assaults, 12 offences of administering a substance with intent and rape.

Paragraph 85: On Tuesday 21st April 2009 Worboys received an indeterminate sentence for all counts with a minimum term of 8 years imprisonment.

Paragraph 86: In a Closing Report dated 5th April 2011 prepared by the police there is a useful summary of the strategy adopted by the CPS in relation to the charging of offences. It is worth setting it out in full:

Crown Prosecution Service

At the time of the trial (20th January 2009), police were investigating 83 linked offences. CPS Lawyer, TONY CONNELL (CPS at Ludgate Hill) authorised the charges. He crafted the indictment to account for the evidence of any other victims. Mr CONNELL was intent on ensuring that the indictment was not overloaded and that the case was as simple as it could be to present to a jury. At the same time, allegations which were particularly serious or which added a great deal to the evidence against Worboys were included upon the indictment. The indictment Worboys faced properly reflected his criminality and enabled a Trial Judge to impose a sentence which adequately protected the public from him”.

Paragraph 87: In the course of the trial an additional four allegations emerged which were linked to Worboys. Furthermore, in the wake of media observations following the conviction an additional 45 incidents were reported of which 18 were linked to Worboys. The total number of allegations linked to Worboys upon the closure of the investigation was 105. The view of the CPS was that it was not in the public interest to charge Worboys with any further offences as these would not result in any increase in his sentence.

Paragraph 274: Only a tiny fraction of Worboys’ victims reported their assaults to the police prior to February 2008. Of the more than 80 victims who contacted police following the arrest of Worboys, over 60 never reported the incident to police. Originally 12 offences were identified as part of the enquiry into Worboys but following a media appeal in February 2008 about 81 offences were identified of which 72 had occurred in the Metropolitan area.

Paragraph 382: …An analysis of the interview transcript reveals the conclusions of officers who were ill-prepared to conduct the interview: that Worboys was a good chap; that a black cab driver would not do that sort of thing; and, that [a victim’s] behaviour was inconsistent with her allegations. Had a proper approach to the interview been conducted then: the numerous cracks and flaws in Worboys account of events might well have become very apparent; he might have been arrested; someone might have conducted a proper intelligence check; links might have been identified with past complaints; and, the multiple rapes that he committed in the days and weeks following his interview when he was free once again to cruise the streets of London seeking out victims would in all likelihood not have occurred at all…

I quote these extracts to set out just how clear it is that Worboys has committed so many carefully pre-planned rapes and sexual assaults.

In this country, we cherish the principle of open justice. Courts sit in public and the press are – generally – free to report what is said and how decisions are reached. One exception to this is the Parole Board, whose work is shrouded in a fog of mystery. They have made a decision that is clearly controversial and is being questioned by many – including me. If the public – and in particular, victims of sexual violence – are to have any confidence in the judicial system they need to be more open and transparent about how they reached the decision they did in this case.

The maximum sentence for rape in English law is life imprisonment. If a man who commits 100 rapes and sexual assaults is only going to serve around 10 years; then just what has somebody got to do to receive the maximum penalty?