Sex attacker refused right to OU study

May 19, 2000

A sex attacker serving life for subjecting a fellow Southampton University student to a terrifying ordeal failed in a High Court bid for the right to take an Open University degree.

Lawyers for Larry Willoughby, 46, accused the governor of Frankland prison, County Durham, of "irrationally" refusing him an opportunity to better his education.

Mr Justice Goldring ruled that the prison authorities were entitled to conclude that allowing him to take a correspondence degree in mathematics - with a view to working as a teacher - would pose an "unacceptable" risk to the public.

Mr Willoughby, from Hackney, London, was convicted in 1997 of false imprisonment, indecent assault and causing actual bodily harm. He had been accepted for a maths degree course at Southampton just eight months after his release from prison for previous offences.

His lawyers argued that prison rules stated that inmates should be given reasonable facilities to further their education and that the governors' refusal amounted to a breach of this under the European Convention on Human Rights.

But Mr Justice Goldring said it was "difficult to overstate" the risk Mr Willoughby poses, particularly to young women, and the parole board had said he would not be released until there was "compelling evidence" that he no longer posed a threat.

The judge said there was evidence that Mr Willoughby embarked on the degree course at Southampton "at least in part" so that he could be among potential victims. If he were to obtain an OU degree it would increase his chances of working as a teacher, thus "increasing his potential pool of victims".

The Open University has about 350 prisoners on degree courses in the UK.

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