The Women’s Equality Party welcomed the Conservative Party’s pledge to reform the parole system, but said it risks placing the onus on victims to get the right outcomes.
The conservative Party’s reforms are a response to the outrageous and indefensible Parole Board decision in January 2018 that allowed serial rapist John Worboys early release from prison. The decision was subsequently challenged by victims and reversed, keeping Worboys in prison indefinitely.
Proposed reforms would include new allowances for victims and the media to attend parole hearings. The Conservatives have also committed to spending £15 million on rape prosecutions and support for victims. This is a start but inadequate when one takes into account the fact that the prosecution rate for reported rapes has fallen drastically from 14 percent to just 1.5 percent between 2015-16 and 2018-19.
Commenting on the pledges, Mandu Reid, Leader of the Women’s Equality Party said,
“Urgent root-and-branch reforms are clearly needed to address the numerous failings and institutional sexism in the criminal justice system, particularly when it comes to crimes of sexual violence and rape. We welcome proposals to address the dire conviction rates for rape and measures to prevent situations like the potential early release of Worboys from ever happening again.
“Transparency over each stage of the legal process is needed, and inviting the media to witness parole hearings just as they do court proceedings is a welcome measure. While we welcome the commitment to a greater involvement of victims in the process, we caution against any implication that getting the right outcomes for parole hearings could depend on their presence. The Parole Board should be held to account by the Government, not by victims or the media.
“Greater support for victims of rape and sexual violence is desperately needed and although we welcome the commitment to £15 million for support services - it doesn’t go far enough, one-off pots of money here and there are not enough given the magnitude and the systemic nature of the problem. The Women’s Equality Party is calling for sustainable ring-fenced funding for specialist services to support survivors of male violence, including rape.”