Parole Board hails courage of victims at John Worboys hearing

Board’s lawyer says decision to release serial sex attacker was ‘rational and lawful’

The Parole Board has acknowledged the “serious suffering” and “courage” of the victims of the serial sex attacker John Worboys during a high court challenge brought by two women opposing his release from prison.

Ben Collins QC, representing the board, said: “We are acutely conscious that underlying this forensic and analytical debate are stories of real and serious suffering on the part of the victims. I wish to acknowledge that on behalf of the board … and also to acknowledge the courage of the victims in pursuing their claims.”

Lawyers for the two unnamed victims have argued that the Parole Board failed to take into account the full extent of Worboys’ offending and that the decision to free him on licence, even on the evidence considered, was “irrational”.

Worboys, 60, who used to drive a black cab, now goes by the name John Radford. He was jailed indefinitely in 2009 with a minimum term of eight years after being found guilty of 19 offences, including rape, sexual assault and drugging, committed against 12 victims. However, police believe he committed crimes against 105 women between 2002 and 2008, when he was caught.

Collins told the three judges hearing the judicial review – Sir Brian Leveson, Mr Justice Garnham and Mr Justice Jay – that the board’s decision to release Worboys “was rational and lawful”.

The Parole Board could not be expected to investigate other allegations made against inmates if the original trial judge had not found them proved in court, he said. “The board indeed does not have to determine whether there has been a crime, or what it is, because there has been a criminal trial and a sentencing exercise.”

Collins added: “It is impossible for the board to find that a prisoner is guilty of a crime for which he has not been charged, consistent with the requirements of fairness.”

But Leveson told Collins that the issues raised by the case were fundamental. “It’s a question of whether someone is safe to be released. That doesn’t depend just on [convictions] but on a whole raft of other matters,” he said. “This is a systematic challenge to the approach the Parole Board takes towards the analysis of risk.”

Edward Fitzgerald QC, representing Worboys, told the court that his client had completed his tariff and “is therefore entitled to be released if it is not necessary for the protection of the public that he be detained”.

He added: “The Parole Board had directed his release, he was entitled on their direction to freedom and he has had that taken away. I think it is a unique case in which someone who has been granted his freedom has then had it taken away from him.”

Throughout the two-day hearing, Worboys watched proceedings via videolink from prison. He has served more than 10 years in prison and remains in custody pending the outcome of the case.

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and the Sun are also challenging the Parole Board decision and the refusal to give reasons for its ruling.

Part of the Parole Board’s proposed release conditions for Worboys, the high court was told, was that he would be excluded from London and Sussex. He would also have to wear an electronic tag on his ankle with a GPS tracker.

At the end of the two-day hearing the judges reserved their decision to a later date.