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  1. ITV Report

John Worboys: Government will not challenge release of black cab rapist

  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Paul Brand

A judicial review over the Parole Board's decision to release black-cab serial rapist John Worboys will not take place, the Justice Secretary announced.

The decision means the convicted criminal could be out of prison within weeks.

Despite the decision, lawyers for victims confirmed they intend to move ahead with their own challenge next week.

Justice Secretary David Gauke told the House of Commons that after seeking expert legal advice, he decided that a judicial review would not be appropriate.

"Whatever ones personal feelings about a case, ministers should not choose to bring legal challenge that has no reasonable prospects of success," he said.

"The bar for a judicial review to succeed is very high", he added. "Having taken and considered expert legal advice, I have decided that it would not be appropriate for me as Secretary of State to proceed with such a case."

Mr Gauke said he knew the decision would "disappoint victims in this case" and the wider public.

"On a personal level, candidly I share those concerns," he said.

David Gauke said he knew the decision not to seek a judicial review would disappoint victims in the case.

He confirmed that Worboys would not be freed until his license conditions have been finalised and that further meetings concerning his release are to take place next week.

The Justice Secretary said that he is aware of third parties seeking legal proceedings adding, "I would not want to prejudice any legal challenges by commenting further on the facts of the part case or the legal advice I have received."

He said: "I fully support the right of victims to take their own legal advice and to challenge the decision.

"The approach I am taking does not mean that others who may have significant interest in the case are precluded from taking action.

"Each case depends on the circumstances of each individual bringing a claim and that is one of the reasons I do not intend to say more on this matter."

Two of Worboys' victims are crowdfunding for legal fees. Credit: Crowdjustice

Lawyer Harriet Wistrich, who represents two of Worboys' victims, said in a statement that they intended to launch judicial review proceedings against the Parole Board as soon as next week.

We note the Secretary of State's decision not to proceed with a judicial review of the Parole Board decision.

We can confirm that in the absence of any unexpected and compelling response from the Parole Board to our pre-action correspondence, we intend to launch judicial review proceedings against the Parole Board next week.

– Harriet Wistrich

In the absence of any legal aid funding, the women are crowdfunding to pay their legal fees - and already have more than £30,000 towards their £50,000 goal.

Meanwhile, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan described the government's decision as "extremely disappointing" - and said he too would be seeking to launch a judicial review.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said he would be seeking a judicial review. Credit: PA

"The decision by the Parole Board to release John Worboys is astonishing and it is extremely disappointing that the government is accepting this without challenge," Mr Khan said.

"I won't."

I am deeply concerned and unhappy about the prospect of John Worboys' impending release.

At the very least his victims and Londoners need the Parole Board's decision to be properly scrutinised by the courts.

In fact the Chair of the Parole Board has welcomed this scrutiny. I will do all I can to ensure this happens.

Yesterday I informed the Chairman of the Parole Board for England and Wales that I have instructed leading counsel on a possible judicial review of their decision to release John Worboys.

Londoners need to know that those in positions of power and responsibility are doing everything they can to keep them safe.

– Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan
John Worboys attacked his victims after picking them up in his black cab.

In a statement, the Parole Board said: "The Parole Board notes the Secretary of State for Justice's decision not to proceed with Judicial Review proceedings. We are glad that the Secretary of State agrees with our suggestion for an independent review on victim contact in the case of John Worboys.

"We also welcome the expanded the terms of reference for the Ministry of Justice's review of the parole process to include victim communication, transparency, and how Parole Board decisions could be reconsidered.

"We think this is a sensible course of action to take to make sure that the public and especially victims have confidence in the Parole Board's work.

"Justice needs to be seen to be done and the Canadian model for victim contact could provide a good starting point."

Worboys' modus operandi was to pretend he had won the lottery to encourage victims to drink spiked champagne. Credit: PA

The decision to release Worboys after nine years in prison has been criticised by many of the victims.

He was jailed indefinitely in 2009, with a minimum term of eight years, for drugging and sexually assaulting women passengers in London.

The taxi driver offered them champagne spiked with powerful sedatives to celebrate a fictional lottery win, backed up with a carrier bag stuffed full of cash.

He was convicted of 19 offences relating to 12 victims but is suspected of being one of the country's most prolific sex offenders after he was linked to 102 complaints in total.

Mr Gauke also said there would be a wider review of how the Parole Board deals with victims that is expected to be completed before Easter.

He said: "I have expanded the review to include whether there should be a mechanism to allow parole decisions to be reconsidered and how that might be best achieved whilst retaining the independence of the decision making process."