No. 32 of #50cases
In 2009, John Worboys, the ‘black cab rapist’, was found guilty of sexually assaulting 12 women. Police now believe he used ‘date-rape’ drugs to attack over 100 female customers between 2002 and 2008. Two women, known as DSD and NBV, both reported their belief that they had been raped to the police. Both felt that during and after the investigations, the police didn’t believe their stories or take the inquiries seriously.
The question, in this case, was whether the police, in failing to investigate allegations effectively, subjected victims to ‘inhuman or degrading treatment’, breaching the Human Rights Convention.
Date-rape drugs confuse victims and often cause them to lose their memories. The difficulty this causes for women who suspect they may have been raped is recognised in police guidelines relating to drug-related assault. The Court found that in many attacks subsequently attributed to Worboys, these guidelines were not followed. Police neither believed allegations, nor conducted enquiries properly. This had a profoundly damaging effect on the women’s mental health and meant that the Police failed to ‘join the dots’ between similar cases for more than six years.
The Courts said the failings did result in ‘inhuman and degrading treatment’. This shows how important it is that authorities take seriously and investigate thoroughly accusations of sexual assault.
Many women Worboys attacked only felt able to come forward after he had been accused because they were afraid that they, like DSD and NBV, would not be believed. Recognising women’s legal right to be heard means that Police must treat women in this situation as potential victims of serious crime, who must have their reports properly investigated. More broadly, this will hopefully contribute to undermining the victim-blaming attitude that persists around sexual violence, focussing on the attacker’s culpability rather than the women’s conduct.