This is a fresh look at the Worboys case, especially the Met police’s failures and entails some new information which I believe if had been known at the time, would have given the victims even more means to take the Met Police to task – and also secure further compensations against its mass failings.
The culture of failure towards rape victims
Rape didn’t really come to the fore in the Met’s consciousness until 2002. The Met’s Policing Plan for 2001 has absolutely no mention of it so we must take 2002 as the year the service began to take rape quite a lot more seriously.
We know the officers involved in Worboys prior to Operation Danzey (the co-ordinated attempt to take him down in 2008) had considerable attitudes that marginlised Worboys’ victims. These included laughing at victims, simply treating them as no more than mere unfortunates who had got drunk, not following up proper means of gathering evidence or following protocol etc. In fact it can be hard to know what the police are doing as the Rape and Victim Investigation Care report of 2002 shows:
It’s difficult to generalise about how MPS officers treat victims, because the experiences vary. E.g. some victims have been repeatedly informed by the police that the perpetrator “is innocent – it’s not yet proven”. In another case, the victim said that she did not want her family to know anything about the matter and that she never be contacted at home and the police were excellent in this instance..
The report was conducted by the Metropolitan Police Authority who were the forerunner of what is currently known as MOPAC. In that same year (2002) the Met began a high profile campaign against cab rapes. It involved efforts by both the Met’s traffic Operational Command Unit (OCU) and the original Project Sapphire:
The issue of minicab rape is being addressed through work with the GLA and the traffic OCU. The traffic OCU’s work is largely focused on stopping and checking minicabs at random, but Project Sapphire is now linking in with this work. This involves identifying and targeting high-risk groups/environments and developing initiatives to address the need.
The campaign was apparently run in conjunction with the Evening Standard.
Need for positive policing in London. Did that happen in the case of Worboys?
The Met even produced a Rape Victim Advice Booklet, which set out to ease victims’ fears, advise of the procedures that would have to be pursued and essentially a promise that officers would do all they could to find the perpetrators.
In its section on rape, the Met advised:
Only you can decide if you want to report the attack to the police. And if you do we will try to find the person who attacked you and perhaps stop them from hurting anyone else. (Source: Rape victim advice booklet 2002)
In the light of this one wonders then how the Met managed to miss so much opportunity to nab Worboys even at this early stage, even in 2003 (the case of DSB or in 2007 the case of NVD.) Or as I may add, the instance of new cases now being flagged up by Lawyer Harriet Wistrich which occurred during 1997, 2002 and 2003. Despite all the glowing reports on how the Met was stopping rapists in their tracks, how conviction rates were going up, etc (see the section London Gets Safer.) there was indeed a very sloppy culture in the Met police – any success was probably more to downright luck than true herculean efforts to find the perpetrators in question.
Again the Rape and Victim Investigation Care report 2002 highlights the following:
Although the general view seemed to be of an improvement in officers’ understanding of victims needs, there were still many examples cited of poor understanding, incorrect assumptions about rape cases and lack of sensitivity towards and belief in victims.
In contrast to that the Metropolitan Police were running campaigns that proclaimed rape was on the decline and detection rates were getting better. It seems London’s police organisation’s aspirations were rather deluded in terms of things getting better versus what was clearly a culture of disbelief, discrimination (this is related to the early Worboys victims who had disabilities) and systematic failures among its officers.
Some of the so-called specially trained officers dedicated to dealing with rape victims, their techniques were horrific and so totally unnecessary. It was a clear case of forcing victims to re-live their awful experiences on an overtly needless scale.
“We were horrified to learn that SOIT officers are questioning women for many days, to “recall” the rape over and over before even beginning a statement. Of course a clear account is needed but such a rigid 63 application of this interviewing technique will instead inevitably put women off pursuing their case. It is outrageously traumatic.”
SOIT stands for Sexual Offence Investigation Technique. Clearly we find despite the Met Police’s own surveys and warnings that most rape victims would fall into this wrongly perceived category, it still flew in the face of its own advice when it came to John Worboys. NBV and DSD, especially the former, were treated as such and thus let down by the Met Police because its officers perpetuated the very beliefs their own force had expressed concerns about.
The Met’s mission, vision and values: Making London safer for all – 2003
Throughout 2005 to 2007 the Met were extolling the fact rape sanction rates had gone up and the crime rape as a whole was decreasing. This stuff could be gleaned from various documents, annual reports, surveys, and their publication London Gets Safer (pub 2007-2010.) On the public front the service seemed to be doing very well with regards to incidences of rape.
Behind the police counter however, some of the officers claimed in retrospect they never saw any of these surveys or reports nor were asked to learn any of the new guidance on aiding rape victims. In fact the view of the officers is the MPS simply published documents to protect it from litigation.
For example the MPS published its first guidance on rapes in 2002 including DFSA (Drug Facilitated Sexual Abuse.) That was Special Notice 11/02 (9 August 2002.) Apparently officers claim they never saw this particular guidance and once again offer the notion it was simply to avoid litigation.
According to the Judge in the case of DSD and NBV versus Commissioner of Metropolitan Police (28/02/2014) that special Guidance had one sentence in particular which said:
The fact that DFSA may be hard to identify precisely because the victim may present as drunk or as an addict.
The document then goes on to illustrate how victims could be mis – perceived and sets out guidelines by which police officers should be able to deal with these incidences effectively. Its a very lengthy document and there’s no space to do it justice here. I cant find the text within the actual document but its possible either the judge had an unredacted copy before him (whilst the only one available online is redacted) or quite possibly it is his own interpretation – and the only reason I place the Judge’s version here is because it is clearly important.
Detail on DFSA’s from the Met’s Special Notice 11/02
What is important is yet another document published warning officers not to be mislead by symptoms of drunkness, inability to remember events etc. A copy of that document (redacted of course) can be seen here.
London Gets Safer
Its interesting that warnings had been repeatedly made on DFSA incidences, especially as the following year on year periods basked in figures showing that rape incidents were down and convictions increasing. There are other documents, not published by the Met, which however show the figures for the same periods inconsideration were in fact on the up, rather than down. One must question whether the Met was simply mistaken in its conceptions that rape was down and officers were doing so much more better than ever before at finding the perpetrators.
Shortly after this the Met came up with the idea of a publicity campaign, ‘London Gets Safer.’ This, at a time when certain taxi cab rapists were being given a pat on the back, so to say, and essentially being allowed to go on raping more women.
London gets safer. Met performance report 2005
Amazingly during this time when Worboys was clearly at his peak, a report from 2005 applauds the Met’s Sapphire units for having excelled during the past twelve months with regards to rape cases – for example Islington’s unit had a 77% sanction rate. The Met too was celebrating the fact the rape sanction rate rose by 6.1%…
Rape sanction detection rate rises 6.1% during 2004-2006 say the Met
Rape Sanction rates are where cases have been successfully pursued and a sanction (punishment) placed on the offender.
If we go right on into 2007 and 2008 (when Worboys had finally been caught and more victims came forward) the Met are still giving what seem to be misleading statements about the number of rapes, given what was really happening (no doubt facilitated by the police’s numerous failures.)
London Gets Safer – December 2007 – Reported rape offences down 16.9%
London Gets Safer – June 2008 – Rape reduced by 11.3%
How can these claims be made when in fact the Met were ignoring victims who had been those of Worboys? I am sure a revisit of these claims would show figures had shot up alarmingly when one takes into consideration perhaps a further 100-120 victims.
Plumstead and Holloway stations were the police bases where officers no doubt began the huge systematic failures that pervaded the Worboys case until the onset of Operation Danzey.
Note: I am aware of the Sapphire SOP (redacted), the Dame Elish Angiolini report and other documents, however I deem they have no real bearing within the particular enquiry I am making.
The cases of DSD and NVB revisited
DSD was raped by Worboys on 7 May 2003. The most shocking aspect of this incident is the police actually met Worboys straight after the incident yet they did nothing. (This information is contained in the documents that cover the Worboys case.) It is said DSD gave Worboys a different address to her own address and the assumption was because she couldn’t remember the actual address.
This was actually her boyfriend’s but who can you trust when it is known cabbies do rape women and the least information that can be given the better? As Worboys drove DSD to this address he put into play his usual tactics – talk of winning substantial amounts of money, wanting to celebrate it with the passenger and offering them a drink (obviously laced with drugs.)
Worboys taxi was hailed about 3am. Arrival at the given address was about 4.15am. Since DSD was drugged, Worboys went to knock on the door of the given address. The guy (only remotely known as Kevin) said he did not know DSD – who was slumped in the taxi and covered in vomit. Kevin said she needed to be taken to the police and he indicated that Worboys drive them there, Kevin would go with them.
This was Holloway Police station where arrival was recorded at 4.33am. Kevin went to the counter to report their presence and that a drunk woman was in the back of the taxi. The police came and dragged her out and took her into the station. In the meantime both Worboys and Kevin were free to leave and this is what they did. Not one officer sought to ask both to stay and try to establish why an unknown taxi passenger was being dumped at the police’s door in what seems to be strange circumstances. These are not the only failures – there were so many more after that DSD soon thought the police just didn’t believe her story at all.
The case with NBV is somewhat different. The background to this needs to be given first. In a likewise manner (similar to the situation prior to that of DSD) the Met Police too published further documents on rape and DFSA’s in general and one in particular cairried important connotations like those previously mentioned.
Again it was being said a large number of rape victims were indeed what one might call dubious (they were not of course) but what the Met Police was trying to say was these incidents needed to be looked at carefully because it was clearly so easy for officers to dismiss simply victims because they appeared drunk or otherwise had other vulnerabilities. This report was published in 2005. I have not been able to find this report however it does exist because DPP’s Alison Saunders referred to it in her January 2012 speech:
87 per cent of victims were vulnerable in at least one of the following ways: through drink or drugs, being under 18, having a mental health issue, or being or having been in an intimate relationship with the suspect. It was observed that to have legal credibility a witness must be articulate, unafraid of the court process, mature and psychologically stable and with a recall of events. As such most victims are totally disadvantaged.
A quite regular obstacle had to be encountered in regards to this document. Saunders’ speech in particular seems to have vanished from the internet. Its no longer on the CPS website (unlike other documents of the same time which are still there) so it seems to me that either by accident or design, important stuff such as this is being deleted, making it harder to find facts. I wonder, is that deliberate, deleting the tracks linking to documents that should tell us more than we already know?
This now missing report is important because the Met was saying once again something like ‘look out for women who many not seem like the kind of victim, but they will almost certainly be’ or as Alison Saunders pointed out, ‘As such most victims are totally disadvantaged.’
One particular outstanding item in the case of NBV is that officers laughed at her plight.
NBV recounts her awful experience in the Guardian (2010)
At the time NBV’s nightmare began, the Met was shouting across the rooftops of London – “Crime figures at eight year low!” In fact the Met too were extolling the fact rape offences were “16.9% lower than last year.” (Let us not forget the Met’s failures allowed perhaps hundred or more other women to be raped without fear or recourse.)
NBV’s nightmare began on 26 July 2007 and again we have an instance where a victim is let down because of poor police practices, lack of evidence and forensics etc. The sum total of these ultimately led to the police and CPS dropping the case against Worboys even though there was almost a certainty this time he had committed an act of rape.
NBV hailed Worboys’ taxi in Holborn about 2am on the 26th. He offered a special fare of £30 for the jounrey to Eltham which she accepted. During the early part of the journey Worboys began the usual tactics, talk of winnings, spiked drinks etc. However when NBV because suspicious and resisted the drinks, Worboys stopped his taxi and entered its rear compartment, telling NBV to take some pills. When NBV resisted he violently held her back and forced her to swallow one of the pills.
The taxi arrived at the university residence in Eltham at 4.25am, but only stopped very briefly before moving off. Its movements were recorded on CCTV. It returned at 4.31am,and this time NBV got out of the taxi, albeit in a quite drugged state. Worboys got out too, was seen to rummage about in the rear passenger compartment and then he went and hugged NBV before driving off.
NBV slept until the next day and when she woke up to find herself covered in blood and her tampon missing. NBV discussed it with her flatmate and realised it had been raped so called the police. Officers from Plumstead came to see NBV and took down notes. The police at Plumstead in due consequence viewed the CCTV and assumed there had been banter between the two which didn’t help. However they had the taxi’s registration number from which they were able to trace Worboys.
Unfortunately the police were very sloppy. They could have had Worboys at this very point. As has been said the CCTV didn’t help. They visited Worboys’ home in Rotherhithe but he was not there. No further attempt was made to re-visit the address or conduct a search which could have helped to convict the black cab rapist. Instead Plumstead police notified Worboys via the Public Carriage Office they wanted to interview him at the station. This clearly gave Worboys notice he had to remove evidence from his taxi as it would no doubt be searched.
Despite samples and swabs being obtained from Worboys, it wasnt analysed for months and when it was, considerably forgotten it seems. The interview concluded with Worboys in the presence of his solicitor. He claimed NBV had said he was a lovely man, that he had picked her up at 3.50am not 2am as NBV had claimed, and that the rummaging in the back of the taxi was because the contents of her handbag had been spilled. That, with the CCTV previously mentioned, was enough to convince police Worboys was simply an innocent taxi driver going about his work.
In retrospect, NBV attended the Haven Centre (based at King’s College) on 26 July for full tests and examination. Several months later a Sun newspaper appeal asking for information on a suspected black cab rapist prompted the Haven centre to contact the Met about NBV’s visit. Subsequently her case was reopened and it was from there that the road to apprehending Worboys finally began. This was February 2008.
Post also published on ALondonBlog