Justice chief summit over '˜Helen's law'

A Wigan murder victim's mother today said that a Whitehall summit in which she pressed for the introduction of a 'no body, no parole' clause in law went as well as she could have possibly hoped for.

Friday, 20th April 2018, 11:31 am
Updated Friday, 20th April 2018, 11:36 am
Helen McCourt

Marie McCourt, who is trying to prevent the release of the man who killed her daughter Helen 30 years ago because he has never admitted his crime nor revealed her body’s whereabouts, travelled to London to meet new justice secretary and Lord Chancellor David Gauke this week.

Having already attracted around 430,000 names with an online “Helen’s Law” petition, the Billinge mum, husband John Sandwell and St Helens North MP Conor McGinn also went to Downing Street to present another 10,000 names of support on paper that were gathered through the Take A Break magazine.

Pub landlord Ian Simms, 61, has been in a lower security category of prison for two years but is still protesting his innocence and therefore not saying where 22-year-old Helen’s body is.

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Marie McCourt with David Gauke (left) and Conor McGinn

Progress on the amendment has been frustratingly slow, partly brought about by several changes of justice secretary but also because the motion’s journey through Parliament has been stalled by other bills pushing in ahead of it and also last year’s snap general election.

However a minister did tell Mrs McCourt that an instruction was going out to parole boards not to release any unremorseful killers like Simms until a decision had been made on “Helen’s law” one way or another.

And Mrs McCourt felt that her latest trip to the capital had been productive.

She said: “I could not have asked for it to go any better. Obviously Mr Gauke could not make big promises but he listened intently, showed a great deal of interest and knowledge in the case, asked questions and challenged some elements and said he would make further investigations.

Marie McCourt with David Gauke (left) and Conor McGinn

“I will now wait to hear from Conor who will be contacted by Mr Gauke to see what happens next. This doesn’t need to take a long time: it’s about amending an existing law - so that killers can’t be released unless they show remorse - rather than introducing a new one.

“When the death penalty was scrapped it was given that murderers shouldn’t be allowed out if they weren’t sorry for what they did but that fell by the wayside during the Blair government when the European Court of Human Rights were given the upper hand and wanted all killers to have a possible release date to aim for come what may.”