Victims and campaigners have welcomed the possible reversal of the Parole Board’s decision to release black-cab rapist John Worboys from prison, following a concession from the new Justice Secretary that the serial sex offender may yet remain locked up.
David Gauke said on Saturday night that he sought legal advice on the prospect of beginning efforts to keep the predatory attacker behind bars following a mass public outcry.
The announcement last week that London cabbie Worboys would be freed nine years after he was imprisoned prompted dismay from victims’ groups, politicians and legal experts.
He was jailed indefinitely in 2009, with a minimum term of eight years, for drugging and sexually assaulting women passengers.
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.
Richard Scorer, a specialist abuse lawyer from Slater and Gordon which represented some of Worboys’ victims, said: “Our clients are pleased that their fears and concerns are finally being recognised.
“They feel like they have been ignored, dismissed and deeply let down by the criminal justice system in the way they have been treated in the past week.
“We hope that Mr Gauke’s comments are followed up with action and that he challenges the decision of the parole board.
“We believe this manipulative, dangerous serial sex offender is still a danger to the public and releasing him now would put many women at risk.”
London mayor Sadiq Khan vowed Worboys should not be allowed to return to the city where he carried out attacks.
He said: “I’m astonished by the decision to release John Worboys. The Parole Board must listen to his victims and he should not be allowed to set foot in London.”
Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry, a former lawyer, told the Andrew Marr Show: “I think that the public are completely bewildered that Worboys is being released as early as he is.
“He is a serious criminal and a threat to women, and I don’t think his victims nor, frankly, the majority of women are going to be convinced that he doesn’t continue to be a threat to us.”
Tory Party chairman Brandon Lewis confirmed the Government’s plans, saying it was important to put victims first.
He told the BBC1 show: “The Secretary of State is looking now at getting advice on whether it can judicially review it, because obviously if we can and the advice is clear that we can go forward with a judicial review in a positive way, then we will look to do that,” he told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show.
“I think every victim out there, every friend and family of victims, everybody who has read about this case will want to know that we are doing everything we can to make sure that the victims are properly protected, and actually we respected the situation, the emotions and feelings that people have been through, these tragic, awful situations will have.”
Mr Lewis added: “I think it’s absolutely right the Secretary of State for Justice will be doing everything he can to make sure this man stays behind bars.”
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “Mr Gauke commissioned, mid-last week, advice on the plausibility of a judicial review and the prospect of success of any judicial review.
“The Secretary of State is minded to move forward only if there was a reasonable prospect of success.”
It is understood Worboys’ licence conditions have not yet been finalised and victims will have a chance to give their views to the Parole Board on suitable conditions before his release.
News of a potential judicial review has been welcomed.