'Helen's Law' to block parole for killers who refuse to reveal location of victims' bodies

Posted On: 
6th July 2019

Justice Secretary David Gauke has announced plans to introduce 'Helen's Law', which could see murderers who refuse to disclose the location of a victim's body being denied parole.

David Gauke confirmed plans to introduce 'Helen's Law'
Credit: 
PA Images

The move follows a long-running campaign by Marie McCourt, whose daughter Helen was murdered by Ian Simms in 1988, and her local MP, Conor McGinn.

Simms has repeatedly refused to reveal where he left her body, prompting calls for the current parole rules to be changed.

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Under the reforms outlined by Mr Gauke, it will become a legal requirement for Parole Boards to consider how co-operative killers have been before deciding whether they can be released.

The Justice Secretary 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.

"‘Helen’s Law’ will mean that the Parole Board must consider this cruelty when reviewing an offender’s suitability for release – which could see them facing longer behind bars.

"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."

Marie McCourt said: "I am obviously very pleased that the Justice Secretary has now confirmed that the Government is proceeding with Helen's Law and grateful that he agreed to meet with myself and Conor McGinn to discuss the aims and needs of my campaign.

"This legislation will mean that myself and many other families will, hopefully, not have to endure the torture of knowing where their loved ones' remains can be recovered from."

In 2015, a petition launched by Marie McCourt that called for the introduction of 'Helen's Law' collected over 500,000 signatures. 

MPs voted in favour of the proposed legislation in October 2016, but it did not receive government backing. 

In February 2017, then justice minister Phillip Lee said that the law risked creating "perverse incentives" for murderers to lie about the location of the victim's body, causing further "unthinkable" pain for their families. 

Conor McGinn said the announcement was "a hugely welcome and important step forward for the McCourts and countless other families". 

He continued, "I want to pay tribute to my constituent Marie McCourt, whose dignity and determination inspired hundreds of thousands of people to support our campaign for 'Helen's Law.' I also want to thank the Secretary of State for his personal commitment and efforts in working with us on this issue. This is a good day for British justice."