To the horror of his victims and those who fear the danger this man poses to women, former London taxi driver, 60-year-old John Worboys dubbed the ‘Black Cab Rapist’, is to be released from prison at the end of this month after serving just over 8 years in prison.
In April 2009, Worboys from Rotherhithe in south-east London was convicted of a string of drugging charges, five sexual assaults, and one rape in relation to 12 different women. Posing as a gentlemanly and trustworthy cab driver, Worboys picked up lone women late at night in Central London, showing them a bag of cash and telling them he had a big win at the casino. Purposely targeting women who had already been drinking on a night out, Worboys gave his victims champagne to ‘celebrate’ his good fortune, champagne he had laced with sedatives. Once the drug had taken effect, he would sexually assault the women in the back of his cab.
“Within about 20 minutes I was feeling really nauseous and drowsy. I was just dizzy and feeling so out of it.”
When the women came to they were often confused and disoriented, appearing drunk and not fully aware of what had just happened to them. Many did not report the attack to police having only hazy memories and feeling terrified about what this man may have done. Worboys, feeling confident he would never be caught, continued his attacks.
In 2008, after police linked three reports of sexual assaults by a taxi driver in London, an appeal was made and Worboys was arrested at his home in Rotherhithe. When police searched his home, they discovered a ‘rape kit’ in the boot of his car containing gloves, condoms, and an ashtray he used to crush the sedatives to drug his victims. They also found DNA evidence linking him to some of the women.
Worboys was given an indeterminate sentence meaning he had to serve the minimum of 8 years and would only be released from prison when a three-person parole board panel deemed he was no longer a risk to the public.
One year after his conviction the police revealed they believed John Worboys had attacked over 100 women after many more victims had come forward with similar stories. Many have been outraged by news of Worboys release, particularly after no explanation was ever provided as to why he was not charged with further offences. His pending release will involve a considerable cost and manpower for continued monitoring and surveillance on Worboys to make sure he is sticking to the rules of his parole.
On 5 January 2018, the Crown Prosecution Service released a statement in relation to John Worboys. They confirmed that out of 83 complaints referred to the CPS in 2008 only 14 were taken forward to his trial in 2009, with others considered to have insufficient evidence. He was charged with 23 offences in total and convicted of 19 of those at Croydon Crown Court in March 2009.
The Survivors Trust, which supports the victims of rape and sexual abuse. told HuffPost UK this month that Worboys crimes “demonstrated a very calculated and determined pattern of behaviour and offending against women,” CEO Fay Maxted continued,
“I doubt whether the victims will feel Worboys has served a sentence that reflect the seriousness of his crimes.”
This is not the first time this case has caused controversy. At the time of his conviction, the Metropolitan police were criticised for how they handled the case and early reports of serious sexual assaults on women being carried out by a taxi driver. First reports were made as far back as 2002 but police often dismissed the women as being drunk and unable to remember or fully support what had happened to them.
“When the victim has been drinking, it is used against her at the reporting stage, and in court. But where the defendant has been drinking, it is often used to excuse or justify his behaviour,” the Independent wrote earlier this month, describing the handling of the case as “institutionalised misogyny prevalent in our criminal justice system when it comes to rape and sexual assault.”
In 2010, the Independent Police Complaints Commission published their report of the police handling of the case. They highlighted the missed opportunities to stop John Worboys continued sexual assaults. Five police officers received disciplinary actions for what they called “individual errors of judgment” in how they responded to early reports of attacks. One woman assaulted by Worboys told the Guardian, “They talked down to me as if it was my fault, as if I was the criminal, and I just felt they didn’t take me seriously.”
After news of his parole, over 50 Members of Parliament have supported a letter to the Justice Secretary demanding an ‘urgent investigation’ into the decision to release John Worboys, Politics Home has reported part of letter read, “We urge you to act urgently ensure that in the case of Mr Worboy’s and his entitlement to parole, his victim’s voices heard.”
John Worboys has been called one of Britain’s most prolific sex offenders, attacking women over a six-year period by wilfully drugging them to render them incapable of fighting back. Through a lack of understanding, training, and awareness police officers who took reports of what this man was doing from traumatised women did not respond appropriately, leaving his victims unsupported and allowing John Worboys the freedom to attack again and again.
Although his release on licence will be subject to restrictions and controls, he has achieved his freedom after spending less than 10 years behind bars. For the pre-meditated and calculated attacks he carried out damaging the lives of multiple women, justice for many has not been served. Whether new charges on the basis of the accounts police now have on further attacks this man carried out will now be filed remains to be seen, but John Worboys is clearly a dangerous man who needs to be watched very carefully once he is back roaming the streets of London.