The justice secretary is preparing to take the Parole Board to judicial review over its decision to set free black cab rapist John Worboys less than 10 years after he was jailed.
Amid a public outcry David Gauke has asked lawyers to examine the case and will launch court proceedings if it has a “reasonable” prospect of success.
Four cabinet ministers are reported to have petitioned Mr Gauke over the issue, warning him that the decision could be unlawful because Worboys’s victims had not been informed about the terms of his release.
It comes days after MPs expressed their disbelief at the decision, with Zac Goldsmith, who is MP to two of Worboys’s victims, accusing the Parole Board of treating victims with “contempt”.
According to The Sunday Times, Mr Goldsmith has since written a letter to the Board in which he describes their failure to consult the victims a “deeply insensitive and thoughtless omission.”
Meanwhile, Anna Soubry, a former minister and criminal barrister, last night said the decision should be challenged.
“Like many familiar [with[ facts of Worboys offending & failure of Parole Board to consult victims I struggle to believe he’s no longer dangerous,” she wrote on Twitter.
The London taxi driver was handed an indeterminate sentence for public protection – known as IPP – in 2009, after he was convicted of drugging and sexually assaulting 12 women and raping one.
However, another 93 women have come forward to make complaints about Worboys, but their claims have never been tested in court.
He is now due to be released, after a three-person panel concluded that the 60-year-old was no longer a danger to the public.
His victims, who were attacked between 2002 and 2008, only found out about his pending release through media reports.
Last night a spokesman for the Ministry of Justice confirmed that legal advice was being sought.
“Mr Gauke commissioned, mid-last week, advice on the plausibility of a judicial review and the prospect of success of any judicial review,” they added.
“The Secretary of State is minded to move forward only if there was a reasonable prospect of success.”
Welcoming Mr Gauke’s decision, Sarah Green, of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said that Worboys’s victims had been “singularly failed throughout the case”.
“The victims of this man’s crimes, who have been treated appallingly by police and the Parole Board, will hopefully have some relief at this news,” she added.
“We need action to be swift now, in order to bring about a review of the assessment of risk this man poses to women’s safety and to restore public confidence in the system’s ability to do justice and to protect.”