As the student blogger for criminology, it is inevitable that some of my blog posts will feature key criminological topics and stories, especially when they feature in the mainstream news. For that reason, today’s post focuses on the John Worboys case.
An update on the latest situation is available at this link:
To summarise, Worboys will soon be released from prison because the Parole Board (an independent body) have decided that he has been rehabilitated and it is safe for him to return to society. The government is considering challenging this decision in court by means of a judicial review.
In my opinion, this is going down a very dangerous road of politicians interfering in the criminal justice system.
There seems to be a general outrage among Worboys’s victims, the families of those victims, some sections of the media and the general public that Worboys should not be released. This argument focuses on two points. Firstly that Worboys has not been adequately punished for the severity and quantity of offences that he was prosecuted for. Although I respect that argument, it is a subjective opinion which can be debated another time.
The second argument commonly used to say that Worboys should remain in prison is that he remains a threat to women. This is an emotional argument and demonstrates precisely why victims and their families should never get a say in the length of punishment an offender receives: they are virtually incapable of neutrality. We (the general public) are in no position to evaluate this threat or lack of threat.
Now, before I get a barrage of abuse, I want to clarify a couple of points. I am not campaigning for Worboys to be released. And I have huge sympathy for victims of crimes (provided it is proven in court beyond reasonable doubt that they are genuine victims or the offender admits to the crimes). But I am taking a rational, logical stance: I do not have the information available to me to judge whether the Parole Board is correct to recommend Worboys for release. No member of the public does. The Parole Board are the experts and have the evidence that the general public does not have access to.
That includes the politicians.
In my opinion, the majority of politicians are well meaning and genuinely want to improve society (though they disagree about how best to do it). But the majority of politicians suffer from one great weakness: they are short term thinkers obsessed with popularity. Which is exactly why we have independent bodies taking important decisions wherever possible, so that these decisions can be taken objectively. Would many of these politicians be interested in challenging the Parole Board’s decision if the majority of the public were in favour of Worboys release rather than against it?
You can guess my answer.
Which is why my main point of this blog has nothing to do with Worboys or about the rehabilitation of offenders. It is this: politicians, stay out of this issue and let the Parole Board do their job.
For those of you interested in these issues, the Punishment and Rehabilitation module on the BSc Criminology degree here at the University of Leicester is bound to be of interest.
I look forward to following the developments of this case.