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Outcry over 'soft' sentences following decision to release John Worboys

Decision to free rapist after nine years has prompted dismay from victims

Ministers have been urged to look at "soft sentencing" in sexual offence cases following the decision to release "black cab rapist" John Worboys.

Justice Secretary David Gauke said the Parole Board followed "the correct procedures" when informing the victims of Worboys' release, and said there was a "strong case" for ensuring the reasons behind their decisions were in the public domain.

But MPs criticised the punishments offenders like Worboys receive.

Tory Philip Hollobone urged Mr Gauke to publish details of the number of sex offenders who have re-offended after their release, and said: "I think my constituents in Kettering would take the view that we are far too soft in this country in punishing sexual offenders.

"None of them serve their time in jail in full, too many are released far too early, and many go on to re-offend once they've been released."

Fellow Conservative Philip Davies suggested Mr Gauke "look at soft sentencing across the board", and not consider the Worboys case as "unique".

Speaking in Commons, Mr Gauke said: "The point that the public at large has to have confidence in our criminal justice system and sentencing is one that I think we would all share."

He earlier told MPs that the "sentence for rape since 2010 has gone up by 30%" and he would see what figures could be provided on re-offending.

The decision to free Worboys nine years after he was jailed has prompted dismay from victims, as well as questions around why not all of the 102 complainants had seen their cases brought to trial.

The newly appointed Justice Secretary confirmed as a "priority" there would be a review of the procedures and transparency of the Parole Board, and that it would report back before Easter.

He said: "While it appears that the correct procedures were followed, the fact that some victims learned of the decision from the media suggests that there is a need to review these procedures and examine whether lessons can be learned and improvements can be made."

Shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon said the Worboys case "underlined once and for all" the need for more transparency.

"It's all too clear that victims of the vile crimes committed by John Worboys feel that this process has failed to do so and such failings risk undermining public trust in our wider justice system," he said.