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Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Ex-Met boss says policing of rape and sexual offences 'in a mess'

Written by Nick Lester

The investigation of rape and sexual offences are "in a mess", a former top police officer has warned.

Ex-Metropolitan Police commissioner Lord Blair of Boughton made his stark assessment as peers debated the controversy around the decison to release "black cab rapist" John Worboys.

In the wake of the outcry, the Government has announced a review of the procedures and transparency of the Parole Board.

The decision to free Worboys nine years after he was jailed has prompted dismay from victims, as well as questions around why not all of the 102 complainants had seen their cases brought to trial.

Some of the women learned of the Parole Board's decision from the media.

Lord Blair argued the terms of reference for the review "need to be pretty wide".

In an apparent reference to the recent collapse of rape cases amid concerns about the disclosure of evidence, the independent crossbench peer said: "We have seen in these last few months really difficult cases about rape failing in the courts.

"It seems to me that the Worboys case is a perfect example from which we could take learning in a wider sense about how can we both support victims and provide the accused with proper defence.

"At the moment I think the investigation of rape and serious sexual offences is in a mess."

Lord Keen said there was a need for the review to focus on the "matters immediately at issue".

He added: "To broaden it the way he suggested would I fear take us into the swamplands and result in no meaningful change, particularly on the issue of transparency, in the foreseeable future."

Tory peer and Victims' Commissioner Baroness Newlove argued the system for keeping victims informed needed to be "radically reformed".

Independent crossbench peer and former chief inspector of social services Lord Laming raised concerns over the supervision of Worboys once he was released.

He said: "It is true the Parole Board will have had a plan based on an assessment of risk, but it is one thing to have the plan, it is another thing to make sure this plan is operated effectively and reliably."

He highlighted recent criticism of the system for managing offenders in England and Wales, under which thousands of convicts living in the community were managed by a brief phone call every few weeks.

But government frontbencher Lord Keen of Elie said Worboys would be subject to an arrangement managed by the National Probation Service, which dealt with the most serious offenders and had not been criticised.

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