Legal triumph for family of murdered Helen McCourt

Murderers who refuse to reveal where they put their victim's body are to be denied parole and spend more time behind bars - thanks to the campaigning of a Wigan mum.

Friday, 5th July 2019, 2:27 pm
Updated Friday, 5th July 2019, 3:27 pm

Helen's Law, named after Billinge insurance clerk Helen McCourt, who vanished on her way home from work in 1988, will make it a legal requirement for the Parole Board to take into account a killer's failure to disclose the location of their victim's remains when considering them for release.

MPs voted in favour of the law in 2016 but it had yet to receive Government backing - until Justice Secretary David Gauke formally announced the move on Saturday.

It comes after Miss McCourt's mother, Marie, campaigned relentlessly to keep her killer - pub landlord Ian Simms - behind bars until he helped lead police to her daughter's body.

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A jury convicted Simms of abducting and murdering the 22-year-old on overwhelming DNA evidence.

But he maintained his innocence and refused to reveal where her body was.

Ms McCourt welcomed the Justice Secretary's announcement and thanked her supporters.

She added in a statement issued by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ): "This legislation will mean that myself and many other families will, hopefully, not have to endure the torture of not knowing where their loved ones remains can be recovered from."

Her MP Conor McGinn, who supported her campaign, said it was an "important step" for getting justice for families.

Parole Board guidance already states offenders who withhold information may still pose a risk to the public and could therefore face longer in prison.

But Helen's Law will for the first time make it a legal requirement to consider this withholding of information when making a decision on whether to release an offender, the MoJ said.

It is hoped the legislation will be brought into force as soon as possible.

Courts can also hand down tougher sentenced for murderers who deliberately conceal the location of a body.

Mr Gauke said: "It is a particular cruelty to deny grieving families the opportunity to lay their murdered loved one to rest and I have immense sympathy with Marie McCourt and others in her situation.

"The profound grief inflicted on families and friends of the murdered is incalculable.

"Those responsible should know that if they choose to compound this further through their behaviour, they will be held accountable."