IF you’re a woman, John Worboys is a name you don’t forget. The scale of his predation, the exploitation of a situation women find themselves in every day is enough to sear it into long-term memory. Worboys’ crimes are of the variety that cools the blood and invites you to imagine the details, the echoes of our own lives in the pattern of his offending.

We’ve all taken taxis alone – we’re even encouraged to take black cabs specifically because they’re traceable, ergo the safe option. And in these black cabs we’ve all indulged a chatty driver, meaning well, but persistent to the point of being uncomfortable. It’s likely such a journey has prompted a momentary fizzle of fear, the kind we rationalise into submission so we don’t freak out, open the door and make a run for it. Travelling alone at night when you’ve had a drink is always something you have to think about as a woman, though we shouldn’t need to.

Worboys is the nightmare made real, the fizzle that blooms into cold horror. He took the thing women are taught to fear, to avoid and used it as a template for his crimes. Over and over again. While he was convicted of 19 sex offences against 12 women in the south-east of England, he is suspected of more than a hundred more. With numbers like that, he could be considered Britain’s most prolific serial sexual predator.

Yet, after serving just eight years of an indeterminate jail sentence he’s set for release. That means by the standards of the parole board, he’s made a considerable effort towards rehabilitation to a point where he’s no longer considered a threat to society. The details remain a mystery. What magical transformation could have taken place in prison? It’s also worth pondering why our justice system considers such a paltry sojourn in the clink befitting of attacks against multiple women.

Sure, I understand the chasm between actual convictions and the suspected crimes. I get that the law operated as it should have when an imprisonment for public protection sentence is applied in England and Wales, that eight years of an equivalent 16-year sentence were served before consideration for parole was possible. Things have proceeded as they should have in that respect. But given that police suspect he may have assaulted a hundred more women than he was convicted for, it makes the decision to not pursue complaints because of the indeterminate sentence questionable. That surely does not pass the public-interest test.

Consider me a vocal sceptic. I don’t believe misogyny so deep in the bones is that easy to root out.

And I’m afraid knowing how the law was applied doesn’t bring me much comfort. I’m angry, as are countless other women, that our safety is worth so little and that legal justice falls far short of the moral transgression and material injury sustained by his victims. So few rape cases result in a successful prosecution, and sentences like Worboys’ dump a considerable measure of salt into the wound.

THIS is a man who gamed his doctor, using sleeping difficulties as a means of stockpiling prescription sedatives. He then assembled a “rape kit” including champagne miniatures, gloves, condoms, a vibrator, torch and an ashtray for crushing pills to spike victims’ drinks. He used a well-rehearsed script to coerce women into taking a spiked drink. This is a man who kept a written record of excuses in a safe in case he was questioned. A man who specifically picked up lone women with the express intent of raping or assaulting them.

Worboys is the archetype of a calculated predator — yet his victims’ trauma was translated into a sentence served of less than a year for each of them. If you consider the matter settled, that Worboys has done his time, I implore you to listen to women. To listen to our anger, our frustration, our fears and consider them an indication of how the law continues to fail us on gender violence. The law was applied, yes, but the law is fundamentally flawed.

It is not an impervious diktat delivered from on high. The law is conceived of by people, written by people — that means it’s not iron-clad or immune to reform. It’s also true most of our laws, since the dawn of civilisation, were written by men and likely carry vestigial bias that favours traditional dichotomies of gender.

The conviction and release of Worboys is a case-in-point illustration of these patriarchal biases within the system — it lays out for us what is acceptable and permissible within society. Sentences like these serve the interests of men who commit sexual violence, not the women whose lives are impacted by them.

In light of recent revelations about the scale of sexual harassment, I think it’s worth reflecting on the part the justice system plays in a culture where predatory men have felt relatively safe to enact their sick fantasies, not just once, but at scale, as we’re seeing time and again right now. In the case of Worboys, it’s not enough to consider justice served and move on. When you think deeply about what kind of justice has been served here, it’s deficiency is galling. Why do we still consider the dignity and safety of women worth so little? If women’s rights are truly human rights, I think we need a better tariff and a legal system that gives form to what are otherwise empty words.