Families of Barking serial killer Stephen Port’s victims welcome landmark police liability ruling

Jack Taylor's sisters Jenny (left) and Donna (right) with mother Jeanette (centre) outside the Old B

Jack Taylor's sisters Jenny (left) and Donna (right) with mother Jeanette (centre) outside the Old Bailey Picture: Philip Toscano/PA - Credit: Archant

Lawyers for the families of the victims of serial killer Stephen Port have welcomed a landmark ruling holding police liable for serious failings in their investigations.

Stephen Port Picture: Met Police

Stephen Port Picture: Met Police - Credit: Archant

Andy Petherbridge, who represents relatives of the four men killed by Port, welcomed the Supreme Court’s judgment, where a panel of five judges rejected an appeal by the Metropolitan Police.

In a case linked to the inquiry into black cab rapist John Worboys, the force had argued that imposing a duty of care on officers in relation to their investigations would have an adverse impact on operational effectiveness.

The ruling means that if a police force conducts an investigation into a crime which fails in a sufficiently serious way, victims can bring claims for compensation under the Human Rights Act.

Mr Petherbridge said: “This is a very bad day for the Metropolitan Police Service as there are likely to be many more claims from victims of violent crime, but a positive day for victims in their fight for justice.”

Port, 41, was handed a whole life sentence in November 2016 after a jury found he had given his victims fatal doses of date rape drug GHB before dumping their bodies near his flat in Cooke Street, Barking, over 15 months.

The families of Anthony Walgate, 23, Gabriel Kovari, 22, Daniel Whitworth, 21, and Jack Taylor, 25, have jointly instructed specialist lawyers as the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) continues its probe into the handling of the case.

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Mr Petherbridge added: “This is a significant decision for the families of Anthony, Gabriel, Daniel and Jack. We have begun civil claims against the Metropolitan Police Service on behalf of the families.

“These include a claim under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights relating to inhumane and degrading treatment. Therefore, I would expect today’s judgment to have a positive bearing on our case. This could also strengthen any claims by survivors assaulted by Port.”

The Met has already been widely criticised over the inquiry and admitted “missed opportunities” to catch the killer sooner.

A total of 17 officers are being investigated by the IOPC over the case, seven of whom could face the sack if found to be guilty of gross misconduct.