There’s a basic assumption in our justice and judicial system that once you’ve done the time for your crime then that’s that. We also have a similar presumption over things like double jeopardy. This is a presumption though, not an absolute rule. That if Plod decides to charge you with robbing number 38 Basildon Road and you’re found innocent by the jury they don’t then arrest you on the way out of the courtroom with having robbed No. 39 Basildon Road.
This isn’t absolute – Assange is serving time for leaping bail and that’ll have no effect at all on whether he’s extradited for rape or spying. But, as a generality, if you’ve been charged with and found guilty of – say – rape of this group of women, you’re serving your time and in prison, then you don’t then get charged with another series of assaults and rapes.
Well, obviously, if you committed some while in prison you will. But that same series, or over that time that you were doing the others you’re serving time for? You’ll not. Not unless there’s a political decision to do so that is.
Which is what does seem to be happening to John Warboys:
John Worboys has been charged with four sexual offences, the Metropolitan Police has said. The 62-year-old, who has changed his name to John Radford, was charged on 1 May with two counts of administering a substance with intent. He was also charged with two counts of administering a stupefying or overpowering drug with intent. Each of the four charges relate to four separate individuals between 2000 and 2008 in London, the Met said. The force added that the allegations were made in early 2018.
These are allegations from the period of time of the crimes he is already serving for. There’s something not quite fair about charging him with them now. My assumption is that it’s because of this:
On 4 January 2018, the BBC reported that Worboys was to be released from prison. Worboys, who was by now 60 years old, had spent 10 years in custody including a period on remand. After a hearing about his case in November 2017, the Parole Board had decided to approve his release with “stringent” licence conditions. He would have to report to probation staff every week and was barred from contacting any of his victims. Worboys’ period on licence would last for at least ten years and he could be sent back to jail if he breached any licence conditions. The following day, Nick Hardwick, the chairman of the Parole Board, apologised “unreservedly” after it was reported that some of Worboys’ victims had not been informed about his release and The Guardian reported that Richard Scorer, the lawyer for several of Worboys’s alleged victims whose cases were not included in the original criminal prosecution were ready to bring fresh prosecutions against him. On 28 March 2018 Hardwick resigned as Parole Board chair following a successful legal challenge quashing its decision to release Worboys. In November 2018, it was announced that Worboys would remain in prison.
At some point it will become impossible to keep him in prison. Partly because indeterminate sentences are themselves under attack and partly because the courts are eventually going to start insisting upon the danger to the public part of the locking him up, not the victims desire revenge part.
So, the solution? Charge him with more offences committed over the same time period as those he’s already convicted for and tack the new sentences on to the end of the current one.
Which is all very political indeed and leaves a very bad taste in the mouth. For is Worboys being treated differently because of the political campaign about him? I would say yes, he is. And it’s appalling that political campaigns should determine criminal trial and sentencing decisions. The entire point of the law and judges etc is to take such things out of the hands of the mob.
Do note I’d have no problem if Worboys has been tried at the same time for more of these crimes. Or if his minimum had been 16 not 8 years. Or even 12 months for each of the 100 to be served consecutively, not concurrently. It’s the coming back for another bite at that cherry which appalls. Precisely because we’ve been rather careful over the centuries to not do that. So why now?
Politics and that ain’t the way to run a justice system.