If we are to avoid open season on its decisions, the Parole Board must survive Worboys with the crucial test of safety for release intact.
Is the Worboys ruling really an out-and-out victory for all victims? Be careful what you wish for. Are the floodgates now to be opened, with every victim and every offender able to declare open season on roughly 25,000 decisions of the Parole Board every year?
The board must, in the public interest, survive this bruising encounter with its sole though crucial test of safety for release. Only where things have gone very badly wrong should there be any second guessing of its rulings.
I agree with the victims’ advocate Phillippa Kaufmann QC that Professor Nick Hardwick has been scapegoated.
As the High Court has found, the principal fault lies with the police for their dismal failure to investigate professionally in the first instance, but also with justice secretary David Gauke’s own ministry for its default over supplying the board with further troubling material about the offender.
Let us remember also that home secretary Theresa May went out of her way to resist the two victims’ claim against the police, right up to the Supreme Court. What a U-turn she is now attempting to execute. The ruling has also shown that rule 25 prohibiting openness of process contributed to this pretty pass. So, by all means, it should go.
What must remain is the board’s untrammelled test of safety for release, subject to appropriate conditions in each individual case. We must avoid throwing the baby out with the bath water.
Malcolm Fowler, solicitor and higher-court advocate; former chair of the Law Society Criminal Law Committee; Kings Heath, Birmingham