John Worboys: why the 'black-cab rapist' decision matters

Outrage grows over release of London cabbie said to have sexually assaulted hundreds of women

John Worboys was convicted in 2009 of 19 offences against 12 women
(Image credit: Police handout)

There is widespread anger today over the decision to release rapist John Worboys, a London black cab driver jailed for life in 2009 for drugging and sexually assaulting multiple female passengers. The London cabbie had been handed an indeterminate sentence with a minimum term of eight years.

Home affairs committee chair Yvette Cooper wants the Parole Board to publish its reasons “immediately.” She is calling the decision to free Warboys “shocking” and “deeply upsetting for the victims.”

Parole Board chairman Nick Hardwick apologised “unreservedly” today over the board’s failure to inform victims before the decision was made public, but failed to apologise for the decision itself.

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So why is the decision to release the former taxi driver causing such an outcry?

Worboy’s crimes

Worboys was convicted in 2009 of 19 charges of drugging and sexually assaulting 12 women, and one charge of rape, The Guardian reported at the time. Other women later came forward, according to police, and the number of victims could exceed 100.

Worboy’s indeterminate sentence

Worboys was given “an indeterminate sentence with a minimum term of eight years before the Parole Board could approve his release,” reports the Guardian. Nine months into his ninth year in prison, a three-person panel cleared him to be freed.

Why is it all so controversial?

Victims and others are demanding to know why Worboys wasn’t charged with additional crimes after dozens of women came forward following his conviction, which could have led to a longer prison term, The Times reports. There is also an outcry over the “lack of transparency” in the Parole Board’s decision to offer what is viewed as “early release” to a serial offender. Hardwick promised a public consultation.

Why did the Parole Board release him?

Officially, Worboys was released because his eight-year tariff was served and he had satisfied the Parole Board that he no longer presented a risk to the public. Board decisions are binding. While few details have been made public, Worboys’s release is “presumably the result of him completing sex offender treatment programmes – the same ones that last year were found to increase reoffending rates,” barrister Matt Stanbury tweeted.

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