Justice Secretary David Gauke has revealed that the government is “changing the system” to streamline the process for victims of abuse who seek to overturn Parole Board decisions.
The Justice Secretary was responding to criticism over the way the Parole Board had handled the John Worboys case earlier this year. The Board concluded that the rapist would be freed after a decade in prison. However, the decision has since been overturned in a landmark case.
“We are changing the system so there is now a reconsideration mechanism,” Gauke told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme.
“So, rather than having to go to a judicial review, what will be available to victims and, indeed, the Justice Secretary, will be an ability to get a decision reconsidered if there is something wrong with it, and that wasn’t the case before.”
Strengthening the Ability to Seek Justice
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Worboys was due to be released because he was given an indeterminate prison sentence in 2009. The sentence guaranteed that Worboys, who was convicted of 19 sexual offenses, would remain behind bars for at least eight years.
In January 2018, the Parole Board ruled that he could be freed. However, the High Court intervened and, alongside Worboys’ victims, launched a judicial review which subsequently overturned the decision.
Worboys will now remain in prison until he is eligible for his next review, which will be within the next two years.
Victims Let Down ‘Very Badly’ by Parole Board
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Critics argue that the Worboys case has exposed major weaknesses in the Parole Board’s vetting processes.
After the successful challenge, Justice Secretary Gauke stated that Worboys, “has clearly committed very serious crimes and if there’s evidence that he is a continued risk, as appears to be the case here, then clearly he is someone who should not be freed.”
The ability to request that the Parole Board reconsider its decisions would help victims of crime seek justice. In the Worboys case, the legal challenge came after the Parole Board’s decision was met with public outcry.
After the ruling that Worboys was to remain in prison, Carrie Symonds, a victim of Worboys who gave up her anonymity, told the Standard that “we won.”
“The justice system and the Parole Board let us down very badly,” she said. “His victims have finally been vindicated.”