King Years & Years
28 February 2014, 11:59
Two women who were seriously sexually assaulted by former Bournemouth cabbie John Worboys in London have won their bid to get compensation from the Metropolitan Police.
One of the women, identified only as DSD, was the first of Worboys' victims to make a complaint to the Met in 2003 - although a woman went to City of London Police the previous year - while the other, NBV, contacted them after she was attacked in July 2007.
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, said Mr Justice Green at London's High Court.
He ruled that the Met was liable to the women for failures in its investigation and damages will now be assessed.
Worboys is also thought to have attacked women in Dorset.
DSD and NBV brought their claims under Articles 3 of the Human Rights Act - which relates to inhuman or degrading treatment.
DSD alleged that she suffered a depressive disorder as a result of her treatment by officers during the 2003 investigation, while NBV claimed that she suffered serious distress, anxiety, guilt and an exacerbation of post-traumatic disorder and depression as a result of her treatment during 2007.
In their test cases brought on behalf of other victims, DSD and NBV alleged that the Met 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.
The judge said Worboys was clinical and conniving and the effect upon the women was profound.
"In the cases of DSD and NBV, I received evidence about the trauma they experienced at the time and subsequently, and have read the psychiatric reports upon them,'' he said.
"I have learned that the effects of the assaults have stayed with them in a variety of ways over the ensuing years, manifesting themselves in depression, feelings of guilt, anxiety, and an inability to sustain relationships, including sexual relationships.
"That 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.''
He said the Met was liable to both women for breach of the Human Rights Act in relation to the period between 2003 - which coincided with the first complaint to police - and 2009, when Worboys was tried.
He added: "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.''
These included a substantial failure to train relevant officers in the intricacies of sexual assaults and, in particular, drug-facilitated sexual assaults and serious failures on the ground by senior officers properly to supervise investigations by more junior officers and to ensure that they were conducting investigations in accordance with the standard procedure.
There were also serious failures in the collection and use of intelligence sources to cross-check complaints to see if there were linkages between them, a failure to maintain the confidence of victims in the integrity of the investigative process and create an environment where victims were incentivised to the maximum degree to bring their complaints to the police.
In addition, there were numerous individual omissions in the specific cases of DSD and NBV which, when viewed in isolation, could also be said to be of sufficient seriousness such that, had they not occurred, the police would have been capable of capturing Worboys at a much earlier point in time.
These included failures to interview vital witnesses, failures to collect key evidence, failures to follow up on CCTV and failures to prepare properly for interviews with the suspect.
He added that the MPS had, itself, recognised these same systemic and operational failings in its numerous reviews into the Worboys case and had now introduced remedial measures.
He concluded that there was, according to well-established case law, a duty imposed upon the police to conduct investigations into particularly severe violent acts perpetrated by private parties in a timely and efficient manner.
"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.''
In a statement, the Metropolitan Police Service said:
"Our defence of these claims should not be taken as a reflection of any doubt upon the veracity of the claimants' accounts as to their treatment by Worboys; or any lack of understanding about the effects of rape on victims. Their accounts formed part of the criminal process and they each, with considerable courage, assisted the police in bringing Worboys to justice.
"The claims were not defended on the basis of factual differences between the parties; but rather based on the appropriate interpretation of European human rights law. The case has raised important arguments regarding the boundaries of police responsibility and liability and we believed that it was important for these principles to be tested before the courts.
"In summing up, the judge highlighted the 'sensitive and dignified way' in which the MPS had conducted itself throughout the hearing; an observation based in part on a decision not to call the claimants to provide evidence.
"The MPS has previously apologised for mistakes made in the investigation of rapes committed by Worboys.
"The judge acknowledged that the failings in this case were very much historic; a recognition that in the interim we have made important and significant changes to the way we investigate rape, which remains one of the most challenging and complex policing issues. We are committed to providing the best possible service to victims, ensuring that they are at the heart of every investigation.
"We will now take time to consider the judgment in full.''
DSD said later:
"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 Met finally accept they have a duty towards victims.''
"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.''