Mum’s bid to stop killer’s release
Justice minister Mike Penning has agreed to meet Marie McCourt and her family to discuss the parole guidelines that could mean her daughter’s killer released without disclosing what he did with his victim’s body.
Up until recently, the guidelines meant Ian Simms, the 58-year-old former pub landlord who was convicted of killing Helen in 1988, could not be released until he showed remorse.
But a change in the law means failure to rehabilitate is no longer a reason for keeping killers behind bars, meaning Mrs McCourt faces the real possibility of him being released without ever revealing his secret.
Simms has already served longer than the minimum term imposed by a Liverpool Crown Court judge but Mrs McCourt believes there is now a real possibility he could be released without ever revealing the whereabouts of the 22-year-old Billinge insurance clerk’s body.
She told BBC Radio Merseyside: “It is very encouraging and I do think that is what they should be looking at providing because it is always the victims who are at the bottom of the ladder where any help is being given.
“I don’t know yet whether or not he is actually himself seeking parole, because the last time about two years ago when I attended a parole hearing I recall the judge saying that Simms hadn’t applied for parole but they have to look at it every two years, that’s the longet they can leave it.
“I think since then that he must have been applying for it because he has a new solicitor working for him and I met her when I went to the parole hearing in April. This was a continuation of the 2013 hearing, and that has never been completed.
“This stress is what victims’ families are put through, we’re told very, very little.
“I am very concerned that in spite of the assurances I have had in the past from previous home secretaries, Simms may be released.
“I was assured that on no account would Ian Simms be released from prison unless he revealed where Helen’s remains were and could be recovered and he showed remorse.
“It would appear now that things have changed on the release of life prisoners because now they don’t even have to show remorse, let alone tell us where our children’s bodies can be recovered. I am not the only person in this situation.
“Apparently, because of DNA increasing the chance of proving who the killer is without a body, these killers are desperately doing anything they can to get rid of the victim’s body, they are callous, cold, cruel first degree killers.”
Simms has had several parole hearings this year, but all have been adjourned for unknown reasons.
Mr Penning agreed to meet Mrs McCourt after St Helens MP Conor McGinn raised the issue in Parliament on Tuesday.
Mr McGinn said: “I’m glad the Minister has agreed to meet with Marie and I hope that this will lead to a review of the guidelines.
“The impact of a murder to the family and friends of the victim is devastating, even more so when the killer refuses to allow a dignified final resting place.
“Those who are convicted of murder should not be considered for release if they do not provide information about the location of their victim’s remains, which compounds the loss and devastation of the victims’ families.”
Mr Penning said: “Naturally I cannot give a commitment on any individual case, but I would like to meet the hon. Gentleman’s constituent if possible to make sure that we can help her and her close family as much as possible.
“It is imperative that where victims feel that they want to, and that they have the courage to do so, their statements are taken into account by the Parole Board.”