In a landmark litigation case, two women who were seriously sexually assaulted by London cab driver John Worboys have won the right to substantial compensation from the Metropolitan Police after the High Court ruled that ‘a series of systemic failures’ in the investigative process had caused avoidable delays in bringing him to justice.
Between 2002 and 2008, Worboys, who was jailed for life in 2009, carried out more than 100 rapes and sexual assaults using alcohol and drugs to stupefy his victims. Two of their number – referred to as DSD and NBV – launched claims against the force, alleging that mishandling of the investigation amounted to a violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which bans inhuman or degrading treatment.
Their lawyers alleged that the force had failed to conduct a reasonable and efficient investigation into the assaults upon them and, as a result, failed to apprehend and secure the conviction of Worboys for an unreasonably long period of time, during which he was free to continue his attacks.
Finding the force liable, Mr Justice Green ruled, “In this case I have identified a series of systemic failings which went to the heart of the failure of the police to apprehend Worboys and cut short his five- to-six-year spree of violent attacks.
“I should emphasise, however, that the conditions laid down in law pursuant to which the police may be liable are relatively stringent. It is not the case that every act or omission by the police which may be categorised as a failing will give rise to damages, nor is it the case that every failure to adhere to the police’s own operating standards and procedures triggers liability.
“A series of exacting hurdles must be overcome before liability may be imposed. I am, however, wholly satisfied that the failings in the present case were of sufficient seriousness to pass by some considerable margin the test that is to be applied to the determination of liability.”
The Court noted that the women’s trauma ‘has to be multiplied one hundred fold, and more, to begin to have a sense of the pain and suffering that Worboys’ serial predatory behaviour exerted upon his many victims. But their feelings are not the end of this circle of misery because, as was evident from the psychiatric and other evidence, the effects rippled throughout the victims’ families and their respective circles of friends.’
DSD said after the Court’s decision, “After 11 years of living with guilt, I can now finally start to put it all behind me and move on with my life. I have always felt responsible for what happened to Worboys’ other victims but I now know this was not my fault. What I am now responsible for, and am extremely proud of, is making the Metropolitan Police finally accept they have a duty towards victims.”
NBV said, “The experience of being disbelieved by the police was almost worse than the rape itself. It’s been unbearably hard to bring this case and spend years going over the same events. I am so relieved that our efforts have finally resulted in justice.”