Insurance blow for cab rape victims

Passengers of the so-called 'black-cab rapist' John Worboys have lost a crucial step in their battle for damages

Passengers of the so-called 'black-cab rapist' John Worboys have lost a crucial step in their battle for damages

First published in National News © by

Passengers of a taxi driver who became known as the notorious "black-cab rapist" have lost a crucial step in their battle for damages.

Ten women had asked a High Court judge in London to rule in their favour in a unique action relating to the liability of motor insurers over their injuries.

John Worboys, 54, was jailed indefinitely in 2009 after being convicted at Croydon Crown Court of drugging and sexually assaulting women while working as a licensed London taxi driver.

Mr Justice Silber dismissed applications brought against Inceptum Insurance Company Limited, formerly known as HSBC Insurance (UK) Limited, on a preliminary issue of whether it was liable to pay damages because Worboys' crimes were committed in his insured taxi.

The judge expressed the "greatest sympathy" for the women "in the light of the horrifying experiences that they suffered at the hands of Worboys", but said his duty was to "follow the appropriate legal principles".

The women had asked the judge for a declaration that "upon the claimant obtaining a judgment against Mr Worboys for damages and interest and/or costs in respect of the matters complained of", the insurers were "liable to pay to the claimant such judgment sum together with any interest due thereon". The move was contested by the insurers.

During the hearing of the action in April, Edwin Glasgow QC, for the passengers, told the court: "The fundamental issue in these cases is whether personal injuries caused by a taxi driver's assaults on a passenger, during the course of a journey, were 'caused by or arose out of the use of a vehicle on a road' for the purposes of compulsory insurance as required by the Road Traffic Act 1988."

Mr Glasgow said the key to resolving that issue was "the role that the taxi and the taxi driver played in the events which occurred". The QC told the court: "The taxi did not just happen to be at the place where the assaults occurred. It was the symbol of security which seduced these young women to believe they were safe."

In his ruling, Mr Justice Silber found that the bodily injuries suffered by the women did not arise out of the use of Worboys' vehicle on a road or other public place within the meaning of the 1988 Act. He announced that Worboys' use of the vehicle at the material times was not a use insured by the policy issued by the insurers.

The judge ruled that the insurers were not liable "to pay to a claimant any sum payable pursuant to the assumed judgment to be obtained by her against Worboys, or any specified part thereof".

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