Supreme Court Worboys Case: Clear and Final Ruling – Police Must Investigate Rape Properly & Failing to do so Breaks the Law
Rape Crisis England & Wales, the End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW), nia, and Southall Black Sisters (SBS) – four women’s groups who intervened in a Supreme Court case where the Metropolitan Police and Home Secretary tried to argue police cannot be held to account when they fail to investigate serious crimes adequately - are delighted at today’s (21st February 2018) historic ruling by the Supreme Court, which makes clear police must investigate rape properly to ensure human rights are protected.
The women’s groups paid tribute to the victims of John Worboys who have fought this case all the way to the Supreme Court outcome today.
The Metropolitan Police, supported by the Home Office, sought to challenge the High Court’s landmark ruling, which established that the police have a duty under the Human Rights Act to investigate serious violence against women, and when they fail to meet this duty they can be held accountable in the courts.
The case is significant not because of small amounts of compensation for harm inflicted, but because it means the police can be held to account by victims when they significantly fail in their duty, and be required to change their daily policy and practice.
In seeking to overturn this ruling, the police and government threatened to undermine a key safety net for the general public and take away the right of victims to get redress for police failings.
Rape Crisis England & Wales said:
Rape Crisis, EVAW, nia and SBS are now calling on the Home Secretary and Justice Secretary to read the judgement in full, which makes clear the State has a responsibility to have effective laws on rape and sexual violence, which are properly enforced. This means they have to step up on addressing across the board failings in justice for rape victims, from initial police report through to prosecution.
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Background to the case
John Worboys, also known as the ‘black cab rapist’, committed more than 100 rapes and sexual assaults on women in his cab between 2002 and 2008. He used identical methods over many years but, despite many women reporting him to the police, a catalogue of police failings including not taking the women seriously, not collecting evidence or CCTV information, and failing to search Worboys’ home, meant he was not caught and was left to continue his horrific offences .
Two of the women raped by Worboys (known as DSD and NBV), who had reported the crimes at the time of the offences in 2002 and 2007, sued the Metropolitan Police at the High Court alleging serious failings in the police investigations which might have prevented Worboys from raping the women.
It is estimated that 85,000 women are raped every year  and only about 15% of those women ever report to the police. The police have a huge job to do in building the confidence of women who do report, and not failing as catastrophically as they did in the Worboys case.
The importance of Human Rights to women
Human Rights Act obligations which have been at stake in this case are relevant for anyone who has been the subject of a grave police failing. They are particularly relevant for women because all the evidence shows that cases of reported violence against women (whether rape, domestic violence, stalking, trafficking and other forms of gender based violence) have particularly poor detection, prosecution and conviction rates. In other words, women are disproportionately affected by police failings .
Notes to editors:
2. Approximately 85,000 women and 12,000 men experience rape, attempted rape or sexual assault by penetration in England and Wales alone every year. These figures come from An Overview of Sexual Offending in England and Wales Ministry of Justice (MoJ), Office for National Statistics (ONS) and Home Office 2013.
3. In October last year EVAW and SBS published Violence against women and girls: Protecting women’s human rights and holding the state to account, which contains a detailed examination of multiple cases of police failings in cases of serious violence against women and girls.
Rape Crisis England & Wales Vice Chair Jodie Woodward speaking outside the Supreme Court after the Ruling: