London

John Worboys' victims go to High Court

John Worboys
Image caption Worboys was jailed indefinitely in 2009

Sex attack victims of a London taxi driver have begun a High Court bid for damages against him and the insurers of his vehicle.

Eight women are asking a judge to rule in a unique action relating to the liability of motor insurers over their injuries.

John Worboys, 54, was convicted in 2009 of drugging and sexually assaulting women while working as a licensed London taxi driver.

Worboys was jailed indefinitely.

The action before Mr Justice Silber, which is set to last several days, is to decide on the preliminary issue of whether insurers are liable to pay damages because Worboys' crimes were committed in his insured taxi.

Edwin Glasgow QC, for the women, told the judge: "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".

He added: "It is our submission that the use of the taxi and the part that it played in the attacks that occurred during the course of the journeys was essential and material."

Falsely imprisoned

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."

The taxi became the place where the women were "falsely imprisoned", where Worboys made up his mind he was going to attack them, where they were poisoned - and it "provided the means" by which the attacks could take place.

Worboys used his taxi as a "lure" to unsuspecting young women who were tricked into believing their safety was ensured by two things - the black cab and the licensed driver.

Mr Glasgow said the "representative" claimants were "only eight of the many passengers of this man who became notoriously known as the black-cab rapist".

Each of the claimants was a passenger in Worboys' taxi in 2007 or 2008.

Mr Glasgow said Worboys was "clearly liable to the claimants for his intentional tortuous conduct".

The second defendant - the insurers - "agreed to and did insure Mr Worboys, pursuant to the Road Traffic Act 1988 in respect of his liability to the claimants for these matters".

'No floodgates danger'

The QC told the judge: "Accordingly, each claimant seeks 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 second defendant is liable to pay to the claimant such judgment sum together with any interest due thereon."

He said there was "no danger that a decision on the facts of these cases will open the floodgates to many or any similar claims apart, perhaps, from those brought by other victims of Mr Worboys".

Mr Glasgow added that "the events described by these claimants are so rare" that their arguments in the case "do not have broad policy implications".

The action is being contested by Worboys' insurers, who have been granted anonymity.

The hearing continues.

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