Jeremy Johnson QC and Mark Thomas act for the Metropolitan Police in claim by victims of John Worboys

Jeremy Johnson QC and Mark Thomas appeared on behalf of the Commissioner in DSD & NBV v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis [2014] EWHC 436 (QB)

The Claimants were victims of John Worboys, a serial sex offender. He was a driver of a London black taxi. His modus operandi was to pick up lone women as fares late at night. He offered them a drink laced with drugs to render them helpless. He then committed sexual assaults.

Mr Worboys was convicted of 19 offences following investigations by the Metropolitan Police. The Claimants sought damages, contending that the police failed to carry out investigations of their complaints of sexual assaults as required by Article 3 ECHR.

It was found that in relation to both DSD and NBV there were both multiple systemic and operational failures, which individually and collectively meet the test for liability under Article 3.

The judge held that the police are under a duty to conduct investigations into particular severe violent acts perpetrated by private parties in a timely and efficient manner. That duty covers the entire span of a case from investigation to trial and is not conditional upon the State being guilty of misconduct itself.

It was held that whether a breach has occurred is measured by viewing the conduct of the police over a relevant time frame. Ordinarily, this will be measured by the time span from the assault on the Claimant to the last point in the criminal process. There is, however, no reason why it cannot span the police investigation from the first point in time that evidence comes to the police attention of a person’s offending until the last point in the process.

It was also held that the process of determining whether an investigation was“reasonable” or “capable” of leading to the apprehension, charge and conviction of a suspect is a fact sensitive exercise. It is subject to a margin of appreciation and proportionality. The law must not impose an excessive burden on the police.

Mr Justice Green stated that the conduct of the Defendant’s case was “exemplary”. He noted that “Mr Johnson emphasised throughout the trial that the Commissioner and the MPS recognised the courage and bravery of the women who had come forward to pursue their allegations against Worboys (including DSD and NBV) and he expressed their sympathy for all of the victims of these crimes. They tailored their approach during the trial to ensure that their defence was conducted in a sensitive manner” and “with considerable dignity”.

The full text of the judgment can be read here.