The Metropolitan Police have lost an appeal over their handling of the case of black cab rapist John Worboys.
Two women had argued the treatment they received from the police breached their human rights, and brought their claims under Article 3 of the Human Rights Act. Article 3 gives the right not to be subjected to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment.
Worboys was convicted of 19 offences in 2009 and was sentenced to serve at least 8 years in jail, but it is believed that he may have carried out a lot more rapes and sexual assaults on women in London between 2002 and 2008.
The ruling is significant for victims of serious violent crime and for the police forces that investigate it. The ruling means that “if a police force investigates a crime and their conduct fails in a way which is deemed sufficiently serious, it will be liable to a human rights action brought by the victim.” The police have accepted the ruling and apologised to the victims they failed, and realise the ruling will have implications for future investigations.
The original judgment was passed in the favour of the two victims of Worboys that had come forward in 2013, but the police appealed the decision and the case was taken to the Supreme Court. Sir Craig Mackey, deputy commissioner of the Met Police, said that it had appealed because “police forces needed absolute clarity on the boundaries of police responsibility and liability for their investigations”.
Supreme Court Justice Lord Kerr said: “By a majority, we have held that failures in the investigation of the crimes, provided they are sufficiently serious, will give rise to liability on the part of the police. The important point to make is that, if the investigation is seriously defective, even if no systemic failures are present, this will be enough to render the police liable.”
Human rights organisation Liberty said it was a “landmark” decision. Martha Spurrier, director of Liberty, said: “Having already let these women down in the most horrific way, the Met could have accepted the High Court’s ruling four years ago. Instead, they used taxpayers’ money to drag them all the way to the highest court in the land.”
So the ruling is likely to lead to more claims by the victims of Worboys and other victims of violent crime that have been let down by the police.