Thank you for contacting me about John Worboys.
John Worboys was convicted of horrific crimes, and my thoughts are with his victims for whom news of the Parole Board's decision to order Worboys' release must have reawakened the most appalling memories. Victims of rape and sexual assault must have full confidence in the criminal justice system. While sentence lengths for these horrific crimes have increased by over 30 per cent since 2010 and more victims are coming forward, there is still more to do.
I understand you are very disappointed in the decision not to seek a judicial review, but whatever one's personal feelings about a case, Ministers should not choose to bring a legal challenge that has no reasonable prospect of success. The bar for a judicial review to succeed is very high. The test for deciding whether a decision is unreasonable is not simply that the decision maker, in this case the Parole Board, could have made an alternative decision, but that no reasonable person would have come to the same conclusion on the facts of the case. Similarly, on procedure, it would be necessary to identify a failure by the Parole Board to follow the process that would have had a material impact on the decision. Having taken expert external legal advice, the Secretary of State decided that it would not be appropriate for him to proceed with such a case.
It is vital that the public and victims have confidence in the justice system that is there to serve them. This case has exposed some issues with the parole process as a whole. The Ministry of Justice is reviewing the case for transparency in the parole-decision process, how victims are communicated with, and how they are appropriately engaged in that process. This review will include consideration of the law, policy, guidance and practice relating to challenges to Parole Board decision making. In particular, the review will include consideration of whether there should be a mechanism to allow parole decisions to be reconsidered and how that might be best achieved, while retaining the independence of the decision-making process. The review is a priority for the Government, which intends to complete it before Easter.
Meanwhile, as I am sure you may also be aware from the press, two of Worboys’ victims have themselves been given leave to challenge the parole board’s decision and a hearing will be held on 13th March.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.