German and Brinton stand up for victims on Worboys release

The release of serial rapist on parole after serving just 10 years has shocked many. Marina Hyde put it particularly well in the Guardian:

In technical terms Worboys has “paid his debt to society”. And yet, that doesn’t feel like quite the right analogy. I prefer to think that he’s been permitted to declare himself bankrupt to avoid paying said debt, and will be trading again in haste most unseemly to his creditors.

Merely out of interest, I wonder which sex offender treatment programme Worboys could have undergone inside in a manner that would have satisfied the parole board? I mean, I don’t want to put a downer on his X Factor journey here, but the main one used in England and Wales was scrapped last year after prisoners who had completed it were more likely to offend again than those that hadn’t. Well … there you go.

Yesterday a statement was made in the House of Lords Mike German replied for the Liberal Democrats:

My Lords, I too express great gratitude from these Benches for the Statement from the Government today, which gives an absolute expression of sympathy for those who have been affected by this case. Because there has been an obvious breakdown in the structure and systems of criminal justice which we are talking about, I wonder whether an apology on behalf of the Government would have been more appropriate at this point.

The Statement we have just heard raises a significant number of issues, many of which link back to legislative processes and rules which have developed over recent decades. Therefore, an understanding of the scope of the review will be necessary to give confidence to the many people who are feeling pain, misery and disgust at what they have seen in recent days. If we are to assuage them and to bring appropriate satisfaction to much of our society, we need to look carefully at the scope of this review.

As the Statement itself expresses it, we are told that the review will answer issues in these two areas: first, transparency in the process for parole decisions and, secondly, how victims are appropriately engaged in that process. This is indeed a focus of public concern at present but behind it lies a set of deeper and wider issues which have been thrown up by this case. We need to ensure that we see a review that touches all these issues if we are to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion to a much deeper issue than that reflected in the Statement. An example which has been thrown up by this case is indeterminate sentences. Nine hundred people were expected to get indeterminate sentences, but by 2012, when they were abolished, 6,000 people had received such sentences. Will the Minister tell us whether there is pressure on the parole system to clear this backlog which has affected the way in which it has dealt with these cases? We need some reassurance on that, not just those of us in this Chamber but the public as well.

Public confidence in the justice system has already been alluded to, particularly in the CPS and the role it played in reducing the number of cases brought to prosecution. It is essential that the public know why that was the case and the impact it has had on the victims and alleged victims who have been so hurt in recent days.

Another area where the concerns of the public need to be assuaged is about the role of the Government and, particularly, of the Home Secretary at the time—she is currently Prime Minister—where two of the victims alleged that their cases were not taken seriously by the criminal system.

The two fundamental issues behind the Statement today are transparency and engagement with victims. The chair of the Parole Board has said that he has lots of plans for more transparency. We need to understand whether he made those views known to the Government and whether the Government took any notice of him in ensuring that openness and transparency occurred. Will the Minister tell us whether the chair of the Parole Board made those points to the Government and what the Government’s response to him was? That is fundamental to the understanding that victims will have.

The second fundamental issue is engagement with victims, which was mentioned in the Statement. We now know that as many as 100 victims did not have their cases taken to court, yet their names are known to the justice system. Will the review deal with those victims as well? This is fundamental. If the names of people who have come forward as being the most hurt—the people who turn to you and say, “I heard this on the television” or “I was asked by a reporter”—are known to reporters, are in the public domain and are well known, why has the penal justice system not brought these matters to their attention? It is clearly laid out in the Statement that at present that is not within the current rules and processes, so some quite significant change is needed to ensure that engagement with victims is properly executed.

The Government say that they are going to bring forward more information shortly. “Shortly” is frequently used in your Lordships’ House and it can mean anything: the next season, the next year, the next Government or whatever. It would be really helpful to know whether we are going to deal with this matter urgently. I know that the Government have said that they intend to bring this matter to a conclusion by March. That is the narrow review which I suspect is what is behind the two issues raised in the Statement, but we need to know a lot more about the processes. We need to understand what victims have gone through. We need to understand what the relationship between the criminal justice system and victims will be.

Fundamentally, there is difference of view as well on the role that the criminal justice system plays. The first stated aim of the criminal justice system is to increase public confidence in it—that appears in this Statement—yet the first aim of the Parole Board is to increase public confidence in its work as an independent body. Somehow or other there is a misconnection there between the one and the other, because having confidence in an independent body and having confidence in the criminal justice system, which is a responsibility of government, in some way do not actually fulfil the needs which this case has thrown up.

I share the anguish of many in this country in relation to the system which this case has thrown up. I share the anguish of many victims who have felt let down by the criminal justice system. I welcome the Statement in so far as it lays out the immediate action to be taken, but I suggest to the Minister that there is a much bigger case lying behind it for examining the whole structure of what happens in these matters.

Sal Brinton questioned the Minister on the Government’s dragging its feet on sorting out a proper Victims’ Code.

My Lords, in 2016 the Public Accounts Committee reported:

The criminal justice system is not good enough at supporting victims and witnesses”.

Your Lordships’ House voted on 12 December 2016 to strengthen the victims’ code, and we held off having another vote in January 2017 only after an undertaking from the Minister at the Dispatch Box that a strategy would be published in the next 12 months. To be told that the review will be undertaken “as soon as possible and possibly by Easter”, as the Minister said in reply to my noble friend just now, is still throwing it into the long grass. What guarantee can the Minister undertake to give the House that there will be such a strategy and that the victims’ code will be strengthened to ensure that mistakes such as this do not happen again?

Readers might remember that it’s almost a year since Sal and others pretty much forced the Government to accept the principle of the Victims’ Code in the first place.

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8 Comments

  • OnceALibDem 10th Jan '18 - 3:46pm

    It doesn’t seem terrribly credible that he’s gone from a dangerous and compulsive offender to someone representing no risk to the public in less than 9 years.

    If he has someone should be getting knighthoods for their innovative offender rehabilitation processes.

  • paul barker 10th Jan '18 - 3:50pm

    We should also be making the point that the original Sentence was ridiculously light for a whole series of cold-blooded, carefully planned attacks. Worboys should have got Life & Life should have meant until he was too feeble to be a threat.
    The root of this case is that Rape is still not taken seriously.

  • I am uncomfortable at the release of Warboys but even more uncomfortable at the ‘retrial by media’ frenzy that his parole has sparked…
    He was sentenced for his crimes and a minimum tariff of 8 years was set with the proviso that he would only be released when he posed no threat to society…
    Have those conditions been met? I don’t know; but neither does Marina Hyde…The only people that can answer that are those who have been working closely with him over the last ten years..They have made their decision.

    As for charging him with those similar attacks that the police did not prosecute…What next; another 15 crimes for another 10 years and so on? If he is no threat prison has done its job; charging him again serves little purpose.

  • @expats
    “As for charging him with those similar attacks that the police did not prosecute…What next; another 15 crimes for another 10 years and so on? If he is no threat prison has done its job; charging him again serves little purpose.”

    I disagree

    If he is guilty of a crime that he has so far not served time for then the purpose for charging him again is justice.
    At the time someone is charged for crimes that they have committed they have an opportunity to admit to other offences for which there has currently not been a complaint made against them, these are a called a TIC “taken in to consideration” the judge can then take this into consideration when sentencing, which means the person can not then be charged for that crime at a later date if a complaint is made new evidence arises.

    If he had admitted these other crimes at the time of his first sentencing, his tariff might well have been higher than the minimum 8 yr term that he got.

  • Matt, So prison is primarily to ‘punish’?
    I thought it was a last resort to keep society safe from those who pose a threat…He served more than his minimum tariff but, had he not been deemed safe then, under the terms of his sentence, he might well have served 30 years..

    Political parties interfering in the police, GPS and judiciary can never be justified…

  • @expats
    Prison sentences are to punish, keep society safe from dangerous elements, rehabilitate and for the purpose of justice for victims.
    All four elements are equally as important to one another.
    If there are other victims of the offender who have not had justice for the crimes committed against them, then it is only right that they are tried for the crime and punished accordingly.
    Like i said a criminal has an opportunity to wipe the slate clean so to speak and ask for “TIC’s” at the time of their sentencing, to serve their time for that sentencing and then rejoin society once and if rehabilitated.
    You take away any one element of that and the whole system is a farce and does not work or serve it’s purpose.

  • I know that we are all under pressure to conform to the current group think on issues such as this, but can I just add a couple of relevant points. First of all, it was the police who decided not to prosecute Worboys for all the offences that they were aware of. Some seem to be suggesting that its ok for the police to hold a couple of offences back so that they can rear rest and prosecute the moment they are released. Secondly, the courts decided on the sentence and the parole board has now decided that he is now longer a risk (and neither you nor are in a position to know whether they are right or not). It’s called due process and it’s all that stands between us and tyranny of the mob.

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