Summary: Women’s rights groups defend right to hold police to account in the Supreme Court

13th March 2017: the Metropolitan Police and Home Office have sought a Supreme Court ruling saying police cannot be sued for failures that left violent serial rapist John Worboys free to continue his crimes. SRT grantees the End Violence Against Women Coalition and Southall Black Sisters, along with NIA and Rape Crisis England & Wales, are intervening via their solicitors Deighton Pierce Glynn to press the court to uphold women’s human rights, including the right to protection from gender-based violence, which imposes a duty on the police to conduct adequate investigations into serious crimes of violence against women.

Worboys, known as the ‘black cab rapist’ committed more than 100 rapes and sexual assaults on women between 2002 and 2008. He used identical methods over many years but, despite many women reporting him, police failings meant he was not caught. Two of the women raped by Worboys, 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. The High Court’s landmark ruling 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 government and police are seeking to overturn the High Court findings, which have been upheld by the Court of Appeal, by appealing to the Supreme Court.

Pragna Patel, Director of Southall Black Sisters, said, “Our experience shows how police failures in investigating crimes of violence against women are too many, too frequent and often too basic. This is compounded by an inadequate complaints system that severely restricts women’s access to protection, justice and equality. If the Rotherham child abuse cases and the Hillsborough disaster have taught us anything it is the need to ensure that police conduct is held up to scrutiny like any other state institution. There should be no immunity for the police when dealing with violence against women and girls.”

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