Thursday, 29 March 2018

John Radford - aka Worboys - Judicial review

Update 20 November 2018 - The Guardian - John Worboys is to stay in prison: but why was his release ever recommended?

On Wednesday 28th March, the High Court handed down judgment in the judicial review proceedings connected with John Radford - also known as John Worboys - R (on the application of DSD and NBV) v The Parole Board of England and Wales and others and John Radford  [2018] EWHC 694 (Admin).


On 13th March 2009, taxi driver John Worboys - now known as John Radford - was convicted of a number of offences, including one count of rape, a number of sexual assaults and 12 counts of administering a substance with intent.   He was sentenced by Mr Justice Penry-Davey to imprisonment for public protection (IPP) and ordered to serve a minimum term of 8 years before his release could be considered by the parole board.   In early January 2018 it came to light that the Parole Board  had decided that John Radford could be released on licence subject to licence.  Please see the post of 5th January.  A subsequent post looked at the Parole Board in more detail - HERE.

Judicial Review:

The purpose of judicial review is commonly misunderstood.  The courts do not replace the actual decision-maker - here the Parole Board.  The purpose of judicial review is to ensure that decision-making is in accordance with the law.  The decision-maker must then reconsider the matter in the light of the court's decision on the law.

The High Court judgment 28th March:

The judgment deals with 3 sets of judicial review proceedings brought:  [1] by the Mayor of London; [2] by DSD and NBV and [3] by News Group Newspapers.

DSD was a victim of Radford and gave evidence at his trial.  NBV had obtained a settlement (without admission of liability) in civil proceedings against Radford.

The News Group Newspapers challenge was to the vires of Rule 25 of the Parole Board Rules 2016.   Rule 25  which prevents publicity of decisions - "Information about proceedings under these Rules and the names of persons concerned in the proceedings must not be made public."

The Parole Board oral hearing leading to the decision to release was held on 8th November 2017 and, in the words of the High Court, the hearing was before "an experienced chair, a specialist psychologist member and a qualified lawyer.". A release letter was issued on 26th December 2017 but the claimants in the judicial review did not hear of the release decision until 4th January 2018.

As always, a FULL reading of the judgment - HERE - is essential for a detailed understanding.

For a critique of the situation see Britain in Europe - Jeremy Roberts QC - Worboys and challenges to judicial independence

The outcome:

1.  The Mayor of London did not have standing to bring a judicial review but there was no doubting the strength and sincerity of the Mayor's concerns (para 108) and the court was not to be understood as saying that the Mayor was a "mere busybody" (111).  However, the court said (112) - " ... having received detailed submissions ... , we cannot simply put them to one side; they must be taken fully into account.  It follows that our ruling as to the Mayor’s lack of standing is largely academic in terms of the present case but not in relation to future litigation on similar facts."

2.   The challenge by DSD and NBV succeeded.  Whilst the decision was not "irrational" in the Wednesbury sense of that word (para 130), but the court held that the Board was not precluded from considering information regarding wider offending when deciding on risk (para 155).  The court then went to hold that, for reasons set out in para 159, the Board should have undertaken further inquiry into the circumstances of his offending and, in particular, whether Radford's credibility and reliability was undermined by the limited way in which he described his offending (para 201).

The court therefore quashed the Parole Board decision and Mr Radford's case was remitted to the Parole Board for fresh determination before a differently constituted panel.  The court added (para 202) that consideration should be given by the Parole Board "in a case of this complexity and prominence to whether a serving or retired judge should chair the panel."

3.  The News Group Newspapers challenge to Rule 25 was upheld.  It will now be for the Secretary of State for Justice to decide how Rule 25 should be reformulated.

There were no obvious reasons why the open justice principle should not apply to the Parole Board in the context of providing information on matters of public concern to the very group of individuals who harbour such concern, namely the public itself. Indeed, it seems to us that there are clear and obvious reasons why the Parole Board should do so. This information can readily be provided in a fashion which in no way undermines the Article 8 rights of the prisoner and the confidentiality which attaches to it.

The court emphasised that it had not held, and was not to be understood to have suggested, that Mr Radford actually presented such a risk that his continued imprisonment was necessary for the protection of the public or that the Parole Board should so decide.  Subject only to the review jurisdiction of this Court, the assessment of all the available evidence, and all matters relevant to Mr Radford’s risk, is for the Parole Board alone to make.

Note 24th May - Rule 25 has been amended - see HERE and HERE.   A member of the public can now request a summary of any Parole Board decision made on or after 22 May 2018 though there are grounds upon which a request can be rejected.


On Wednesday 28th March, Professor Nick Hardwick - the Parole Board Chairman - announced his resignation. His resignation letter to the Secretary of State for Justice may be read at BBC News 28th March.  A Statement by the Parole Board is HERE.

Crucially, the letter states - "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."  [My emphasis].

It is not entirely clear why the Secretary of State considered the Chairman's position to be "untenable."  That and the independence of the Board are matters to which I plan to return in the near future.

Parliament - Statement by Secretary of State for Justice

House of Commons 28th March 2018 

This includes the comment - " .... the victims succeeded in a different argument. They challenged that, while Ministry of Justice officials opposed release, they should have done more to put forward all the relevant material on other offending. They also highlighted very significant failures on the part of the Parole Board to make all the necessary inquiries and so fully take into account wider evidence about Worboys’ offending."

The debate may be read at Hansard Online 28th March.

Justice Committee:

On 7th February 2018 the House of Commons Justice Committee took evidence about The Parole Board including evidence from Professor Hardwick.

The proceedings may be viewed here

Professor Nick Hardwick - Statement to the Justice Committee 29th January 2018 - Transparency in Parole Board decisions

New Parole Board rules:

Rule 25 of the Parole Board Rules will have to be replaced by some new provision to comply with the judgment.  The Criminal Justice Act 2004 s.239(5) gives the Secretary of State power to may make rules with respect to the proceedings of the Board, including proceedings authorising cases to be dealt with by a prescribed number of its members or requiring cases to be dealt with at prescribed times.

It appears that these Rules only have to be laid before Parliament and are subject to annulment by resolution of either House of Parliament - see CJA 2003 section 330.

It would seem wise for Members of Parliament to pay particular attention to any new Parole Board Rules which emerge from the Ministry of Justice.

Other comments:

Matrix Chambers

The Secret Barrister

Civil proceedings referred to in the Judicial Review:

[2014] EWHC 436 (QB)

[2015] EWCA Civ 646

[2018] UKSC 11

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