When the Parole Board made its disastrous decision to release John Worboys, known as the black cab rapist, in January, the reasons were not made public. But the board had to have decided that Worboys, who police believe raped well over 100 women between 2002 and 2008, was no longer a “danger to the public”.
Today, the court allowed the challenge brought by two of Worboys’s victims and ruled that the decision of the Parole Board to release him was “irrational”. They ordered that a fresh decision needed to be made, following a fuller inquiry by a newly constituted board. Worboys will now stay in prison, but his numerous victims and the general public are deserving of some answers. The Parole Board chair, Nick Hardwick, resigned – a symbol of the serious consequences of the board’s original decision.
It now transpires that the board accepted Worboys’s assurances that he was only responsible for offending against the 12 women for which he had been convicted.
In choosing to put only a small proportion of the offences he committed on the indictment, the CPS made a grave mistake. Other credible witnesses had come forward, but prosecutors told these women that Worboys was going to prison for a “very long time” and there was no need to add any further charges. Consequently, Worboys was sentenced on the basis that he had committed one rape, and a number of sexual assaults and drugging offences. The opportunity to convict him for some of the many other rapes he clearly committed was lost, and the women who were desperate for justice were betrayed.
One of the arguments put forward by Worboys as to why he was safe to be released was that he had participated in “sex offender treatment” programmes. But such programmes have long been criticised as ineffective. Indeed, I have argued that they are counter-productive, and have enabled a number of participants to simply learn the language required to manipulate professionals into believing that they are rehabilitated.
Any perpetrator programme that seeks to “heal” the abuser is bound to fail. These men are not sick: they are choosing to exert their power over women for sadistic pleasure. They know fine well prior to attending these programmes that their actions are harmful and criminal, but are perfectly happy to play along.
There is evidence that such programmes can result in an increase of offending, and yet Worboys apparently used the fact that he attended such a course to present himself as a reformed character. This is a man whose modus operandi consisted of lies, manipulation and charm.