The Justice Secretary is facing demands to resign after victims of black cab rapist John Worboys accused of him of a “disgusting” attempt to avoid blame over the scandal.
David Gauke refused to apologise directly to the women for failings by his department identified by three High Court judges who yesterday overturned a decision to grant Worboys early release.
Instead, he forced the Parole Board chairman Nick Hardwick to resign after telling him his position was “untenable” – leading to claims that Mr Hardwick had been made a scapegoat.
Tory MPs and Mr Hardwick himself suggested Mr Gauke – who refused to challenge the Parole Board’s decision to free Worboys – should now consider his own position.
Two victims were forced to mount a crowd-funded legal challenge against Worboys’ release after Mr Gauke’s refusal to launch a judicial review, based on legal advice he had been given by a QC.
They won their case after the judges said both the Parole Board and the Ministry of Justice had made errors during the parole hearing last year, when David Lidington was justice secretary.
It means Worboys will remain in prison pending a fresh hearing in front of a different panel.
The judges said the Secretary of State’s representative at the hearing failed to ask the serial rapist – who is thought to have drugged and assaulted more than 100 women – whether he had committed more than the 12 rapes of which he was convicted.
They said the “credibility and reliability” of Worboys’ account “was not probed to any extent, if at all”, and the Ministry of Justice failed to include vital details such as the discovery of a “rape kit” at Worboys’ home in a dossier submitted to the parole hearing.
One Conservative backbencher described him as “weak and pathetic”, adding: “He is fighting for his future. He has to take responsibility and consider his position.
“It’s all very well to sack Nick Hardwick but he himself has to take responsibility.”
Mr Gauke told The Daily Telegraph he had not considered resigning, and the Prime Minister’s spokesman said Theresa May retained full confidence in him.
The Justice Secretary insisted he had been right to follow legal advice not to intervene in the case, and saw no reason to apologise in person to the victims for his department’s failings during the parole hearing.
He said: “Collectively, I am sorry; if you look at the system as a whole it didn’t work as it should have done.”
He said he had “huge sympathy” for the victims and accepted that “there were clearly things that the MoJ didn’t get right” but insisted the judges had “principally…identified failures by the parole board”.
In January Mr Gauke had initially indicated he would seek a judicial review of the board’s decision, only to change his mind following the legal advice. MoJ sources admitted he had been “naive” to build up victims’ hopes before knowing the legal position.
Asked why he had not mounted a legal challenge to the Parole Board’s decision to release Worboys from his indeterminate sentence after 10 years, he said: “I acted in good faith. I didn’t want to bring a case as a political gesture. The victims were in a stronger position [to bring a case].”
One of the two victims who brought the case, known only as DSD, said the decision to force out Mr Hardwick was “disgusting”. Phillippa Kaufmann QC, who represented the two victims in court, said the forced resignation of Mr Hardwick was “disappointing and it looks as though he has been scapegoated”.
Mr Hardwick told friends: “If my position is untenable then why isn’t his?”
He is said to be “frustrated” and believes the Ministry of Justice “failed” by submitting a weak dossier to the parole board.
One friend of Mr Hardwick said: “If you are in a leadership position you have to take responsibility for the people who work under you.”
Prime Minister Theresa May said the decision to quash the release gives rise to “serious concerns”, as she praised the “brave” victims who brought the legal action.
Lawyers for the women argued during a hearing earlier this month that the Parole Board’s decision to release Worboys, who now goes under the name of John Radford, was “irrational” and should be overturned.
Nick Hardwick’s ‘position was untenable’
In his letter to Justice Secretary David Gauke offering his resignation as chairman of the Parole Board, Mr Hardwick wrote:
“You told me that you thought my position was untenable. I had no role in the decision of the panel in the case and believe I am capable of leading the Parole Board through the changes, many of which I have advocated, that will now be necessary.
“I am sorry for the mistakes that were made in this case but I have always made it clear that I will support the members and staff of the board in the very difficult individual decisions they make and I will accept accountability for the work of the board.
“I will not pass the buck to those who work under me. In these circumstances I inform you of my decision to resign with immediate effect.
“In conclusion, I want to state my concern about the independence of the board. I believe this matter raises very troubling questions about how the board’s independence can be safeguarded. I hope Parliament will consider what structural changes are necessary to ensure this independence is protected in future.
“The court was critical of some aspects of the panel’s decision-making processes although it did not overturn the panel’s decisions on these grounds. It could not, no more than you or I, put itself in the place of the expert and experienced panel members who heard the evidence and made the decision.
“The court did however find that the panel’s understanding that it could not go beyond the offences for which Worboys was convicted was mistaken in this ‘difficult, troubling case with many exceptional features’. I shared the panel’s misapprehension in this matter and this was supported by the advice I received. We were wrong.”
Justice Secretary: Parole Board boss right to quit
In a statement, Justice Secretary David Gauke said: “I accept Professor Hardwick’s resignation and believe this is the correct decision in light of the serious failings outlined in today’s judgment.
“I would also like to express my appreciation for his committed service to the Board and the contribution he has made to my department’s review of parole processes.
“It is crucial the Parole Board now takes all necessary measures to ensure that public confidence is maintained in its decision-making processes.
“I look forward to working closely with the new leadership team to see through these vital changes.”
Mr Gauke announced his intention to “conduct further work to examine the Parole Board rules in their entirety”.
He added: “As a result of the work that has been completed to date, I have already decided to abolish Rule 25 and will do so as soon as possible after the Easter recess,
“This will enable us to provide for the Parole Board to make available summaries of the decisions they make to victims. In addition, I will bring forward proposals for Parole Board decisions to be challenged.
“I intend to consult on the detail of these proposals by the end of April alongside other proposals to improve the way that victims are kept informed about the parole process.
“I will make a statement to Parliament this afternoon and set out our response to the judgment – and our next steps – in more detail.”
Parole Board will not challenge outcome of case
After the resignation of Mr Hardwick, the Parole Board issued the following statement:
“As a result of the bravery and determination of the women who brought this challenge, the experience of victims will be better and there will be much simpler ways to challenge our decisions in the future.
“It was clear before the Worboys case arose that there was a compelling case for major reform of the parole system. This judgment will now open up the decision making of the board which we have been calling for.
“The Parole Board are not seeking to challenge the outcome of this case and the Worboys case will now be re-referred to the Parole Board.
“The court acknowledged that this was an unusual and complex case and we want any decision to be made on the best possible evidence. The chair Professor Nick Hardwick has since resigned from the Parole Board.”
Chief Executive Martin Jones said: “Parole Board members make incredibly difficult and complex decisions every day that can have a devastating impact on victims and the case of John Worboys is no different. The courts have decided we must go back and look at this case again in light of additional information that wasn’t before the original panel and we will do just that.
“Nick Hardwick and I have always been clear that we will support our members when they face criticism in making these important decisions. I am deeply sorry that Nick Hardwick has decided to resign, he is a man of real integrity, and I have been proud to work with him.”
Victims ‘delighted and deeply relieved’ at ruling
Law firm Slater and Gordon represented 11 of Worboys’ victims.
Kim Harrison, a specialist abuse lawyer with the firm, said: “Our clients are delighted and deeply relieved by today’s decision to overturn the release of this dangerous man.
“We have said all along that Worboys is a manipulative and calculating individual who conned the Parole Board into granting his release.
“Our clients, who have been terrified that he will track them down after his release, can now sleep easy in their beds safe in the knowledge that this serial sex offender will be kept in jail where he belongs.”
Rapist was jailed indefinitely for string of offences
Worboys was jailed indefinitely in 2009 with a minimum term of eight years after being found guilty of 19 offences, including rape, sexual assault and drugging, committed against 12 victims.
He became known as the black cab rapist after attacking victims in his hackney carriage.
Police believe he committed crimes against 105 women between 2002 and 2008, when he was caught.
Something went ‘badly wrong’ with release decision
The two victims who brought the case believe something went “badly wrong” with the Parole Board’s decision to free Worboys.
They say the Parole Board should have taken into account “critical evidence” of the “wider allegations” against Worboys.
The judges heard that Worboys, who has served 10 years behind bars, including remand time, has denied committing any offences other than those for which he was convicted.
The Parole Board argued that its decision was “lawful and and rational” and was based on appropriate evidence.
Article Source : https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/03/28/parole-board-chairman-nick-hardwick-forced-resign-high-court/