Anger at murder parole axe chaos

Helen McCourt
Helen McCourt
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THE furious mother of Helen McCourt is writing to the country’s justice chiefs after she was made to wait a fortnight for the result of her daughter’s killer’s parole hearing - only to find it never took place.

Marie McCourt wants to know why she was put through “two weeks of unnecessary stress” when it must have been known on the day that the hearing was not going to go ahead. She has now been told that Ian Simms will only now be going before a panel at Garth Prison, Leyland, next March at the earliest.

The Billinge mum is also angry over secrecy. She gave a victim impact statement at Garth two weeks last Monday, after which Simms was then supposed to offer his case for being downgraded to a lower category of jail. But rules prevent the authorities from telling her the reasons why it was shelved.

Helen McCourt was murdered by former pub landlord Simms in 1988 but her body has never been found. Mrs McCourt insists that Simms, who still protests his innocence, should not be released unless he first reveals where Helen is. But she is increasingly frustrated with the “offender-favouring” parole system. She has now written a letter, complaining about the latest events and demanding why she can’t be told more to a number of senior figures. This includes Justice Secretary Chris Grayling, Michael Spurr of the National Offender Management Service, and the chairman and chief executive of the Parole Board.

She said: “I gave evidence at Garth on September 23 and was told I would be informed of the decision in a fortnight. Simms’s side was due to be presented afterwards but I wasn’t allowed in on it. But then on Monday I got a call saying the hearing never went ahead and was cancelled until further notice. March 1 is the earliest possible next date. When I asked why they said they couldn’t tell me.

“I am really angry. I have been made to stress out for a fortnight completely unnecessarily. Surely if the hearing did not go ahead they could have told me immediately. But no-one had the common decency. And no-one is allowed to tell me why either. What possible harm could it do for me to know? Was he ill, has he attempted suicide, are there extra reports to prepare?”

Mrs McCourt was told she would not have to resubmit her evidence at the reconvened hearing but she says she is determined to do so because she wants her side “as fresh in the board’s memory as Simms’s”.