A legal challenge funded on CrowdJustice by two victims of ‘Black Cab Rapist’ John Worboys kept him in prison and laid the groundwork for a new Government policy, giving victims of crime rights to challenge the release of violent offenders.
In this Q&A, CrowdJustice’s Head of Campaigns, Matthew Bethell, talks about the legal action, its fundraising and why it’s significant.
Who is John Worboys?
“John Worboys was a black cab driver. He used date rape drugs to assault women in his cab. In 2009, he was convicted of serious sexual offences, including rape and sexual assault. He’s been in prison since then.”
Why were his victims fundraising?
“After 8 years in prison, Worboys became eligible for release if the Parole Board decided he was no longer a danger to the public. In December 2017, the Parole Board granted parole, but two of his victims challenged the decision to release Worboys from prison.
They set up a CrowdJustice page and raised more than £66,000. Thanks to 2,500 backers, they were able to instruct an all-star legal team including solicitor Harriet Wistrich, who specialises in cases involving violence against women, and leading barrister Phillippa Kaufmann QC. Worboys’ victims really would have struggled to get to court without help.”
What’s happened since the fundraising?
“In March last year, the High Court decided that the Parole Board should have carried out further inquiries into the circumstances of Worboys’ offending. The Court overturned the Parole Board’s decision to release him.
Then, on the 4th of February 2019, the Justice Secretary, David Gauke, announced that victims of violent crime in England and Wales will be granted new rights to challenge the release of offenders.”
Why is the victims’ legal challenge significant?
“This is a fantastic example of what CrowdJustice is all about - increasing access to justice. You have two incredibly brave and determined victims who decided to challenge the decision to release Worboys from prison.
Two women came together with thousands of others to fund their legal action. Not only were they able to reverse the decision to release Worboys, they’ve also fundamentally changed the system for victims of crime. It’s fantastic to see CrowdJustice playing a part in that.”
How does CrowdJustice improve access to justice in cases like this?
“The legal system feels very distant to a lot of people, it’s an alien set of institutions, processes and systems. Accessing a lawyer feels out of reach. It’s very exciting for us to see legal challenges that are successful and create systemic change because it shows that when people come together around legal issues, they really can have a positive impact.”
What would you say to people who aren't sure if they could raise funds in this way?
“You’d be very surprised at the number of people who also care about your legal issue. What this form of fundraising enables people to do is to build communities around a legal issue - whether it’s a few friends and family chipping in to pay for legal advice, or thousands of people putting their support behind victims of crime.
At CrowdJustice, it’s always been our core mission to get people feeling more comfortable and able to bring legal action. We work hard to break down the barriers to accessing justice so that people can be involved in the legal process.”
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