It looks like Billinge mum Marie McCourt could be days away from getting her Helen’s Law campaign introduced.
According to a report in the Daily Mail, Justice Secretary Robert Buckland has committed to introducing legislation to keep killers who stay silent about where they concealed their victims’ bodies in prison for longer and the measures could be outlined within days in a Queen’s Speech.
This is a huge victory for Marie McCourt in her campaign for a new law following the brutal murder of her daughter Helen by Ian Simms in a Billinge pub in 1988.
The remains of 22-year-old Helen have never been found after she vanished going home from work in Liverpool.
Mr Buckland believes it is imperative that murderers who compound the grief of innocent families by refusing to disclose the location of their victims’ remains are held fully accountable.
Under the plans, the Parole Board would have a legal duty to reflect a convict’s failure to speak up when considering if they should be freed from jail.
Former Justice Secretary David Gauke had been determined to bring in a law to end the injustice, which leaves tormented families in a cruel emotional limbo.
Although he quit in the summer, his successor has pledged to implement changes so grieving relatives are not denied the chance to bury loved ones.
Mr Buckland is working hard to get the law on the statute book as quickly as possible.
He told the Mail: ‘I’m very committed to Helen’s Law. I met Marie when David was Secretary of State and her ordeal is harrowing.
“It’s absolutely the right way to go and, whilst it would be wrong to precisely speculate what will be in the Queen’s Speech, I can say you should be cautiously optimistic we are moving in the right direction.’
Mrs McCourt said she would be ‘delighted’ if Helen’s Law was finally introduced: “It is so important, not just for me but for other families going through similar suffering, that politicians get on with it and get this law on the statute book,” she said.
“After all this time, it would be amazing for it to happen.
“Helen’s case was one of the first where a killer was found guilty without a body but advances in policing and forensics mean we are seeing more and more. There have been several already this year alone.
“Simms has served almost 32 years and hasn’t had a parole hearing for nearly four years. But if he is offered another hearing, it will be much harder to release him once Helen’s Law is on the statute. That’s why I want it to happen as soon as possible.’”
St Helens MP Conor McGinn welcomed news that the measure cold be included in the Queen’s Speech.
He said: “I know the Secretary of State is personally committed to making Helen’s Law happen. I hope that, at a time when Parliament is divided on many issues, that this law would receive the support of members from right across the House.”
Pub landlord Simms was convicted of Helen’s murder by DNA evidence but has always refused to reveal the location of her body.
The 62-year-old has served almost double his 16-year minimum term but he is in an open prison and has been pictured enjoying days out in the community, sparking fears he is being prepared for release from custody.
Mrs McCourt, who has only recently begun a new search for her daughter’s body, had hoped for ‘no body, no parole’ legislation –which would stop killers being released unless they revealed the whereabouts of a body – but said the proposed law would make a huge difference.