Theresa May retains “full confidence” in David Gauke despite severe criticism of his handling of the John Warboys case, Downing Street has said.
The Justice Secretary decided in January not to try to overturn the Parole Board’s decision to allow the serial rapist to be released after serving just eight years for a string of sexual assaults.
At the time, he said government lawyers had told him there was no “reasonable” chance of suceeding.
However, a legal challenge involving two of serial rapists’ victims and London Mayor Sadiq Khan was upheld in the High Court, meaning he will remain behind bars.
Nick Hardwick, the chairman of the Parole Board, was dramatically sacked by Mr Gauke shortly before the court ruling was handed down.
Some Tory MPs have reportedly called for Mr Gauke to consider his own position, but asked if the Prime Minister still had confidence in her minister, her spokesman said:[tooltip id=”4500c2f113202943ff1ae30d00c9d4ac”] [/tooltip]“Yes.”
After being dragged before MPs to explain his actions, the minister said:[tooltip id=”4500c2f113202943ff1ae30d00c9d4ac”] [/tooltip]“I took expert legal advice from leading counsel on whether I should bring a challenge.
“The bar for judicial review is set high. I considered whether the decision was legally rational – in other words, a decision which no reasonable Parole Board could have made.
“The advice I received was that such an argument was highly unlikely to succeed. And, indeed, this argument did not succeed. However, the victims succeeded in a different argument.”
He said that Ministry of Justice officials should have done more to put forward all the relevant material on other offending and highlighted “very significant failures” on the part of the Parole Board to make all the necessary inquiries into Worboys’ other offending.
He added:[tooltip id=”4500c2f113202943ff1ae30d00c9d4ac”] [/tooltip]“I also received advice on the failure of process argument and was advised that this was not one that I as Secretary of State would have been able to successfully advance.
“The victims were better placed to make this argument and this was the argument on which they have won their case.
“Indeed, the judgment suggests that, had I brought a case, the standing of the victims may have been compromised.”
Mr Gauke confirmed that he will abolish the rule preventing the Parole Board from giving reasons for its decisions, a move Theresa May offered her backing to at Prime Minister’s Question’s today.
She said:[tooltip id=”4500c2f113202943ff1ae30d00c9d4ac”] [/tooltip]“I welcome the judgement today that has found in favour of the brave victims who brought this legal action. The court’s findings do give rise to serious concerns…”
Meanwhile Mr Khan said the decision would “help to maintain Londoners’ confidence in the criminal justice system”.
“Regardless of today’s rulings, there needs to be an urgent overhaul of the way Parole Board decisions to release offenders are taken,” he said.
“The shocking failures in the way John Worboys’ victims were treated has damaged confidence in the criminal justice system and the time has come for more transparency surrounding decisions to let offenders out of prison”.
Shadow Justice Secretary Richard Burgon said there needed to be a “thorough examination” in the handling of the case “from the first reported attack to the police by a victim right through to the parole board hearings”.
He added:[tooltip id=”4500c2f113202943ff1ae30d00c9d4ac”] [/tooltip]“Anything less an independent end-to-end review into the whole handling of the Worboys case will fail to re-establish public confidence in our justice system and will let victims down again.”
Mr Burgon also called for a review into legal aid funding and criticised the need for the victims to “crowdfund” their action.
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