Helen’s Law

Today, I supported Conor McGinn MPs Ten Minute Rule Bill. This Bill, which came under the formal title of Unlawful Killing (Recovery of Remain) Bill, is being introduced following the tragedy that befell Marie McCourt whose daughter, Helen, was murdered and the murderer has refused to tell the police where her remains are.

Marie’s daughter Helen was murdered at the age of just 22 by Ian Simms in February 1988, as she travelled home from work in the village of Billinge. In a landmark conviction, he was found guilty of murder based on overwhelming DNA evidence, even though Helen’s body was not found. For almost three decades, Marie has been tormented because he refuses to reveal what happened to her daughter’s body. Despite this brutal act of callousness and lack of remorse, he could soon be released from jail. Killers who inflict this kind of suffering on their victims’ families should not be released on parole. That goes to the heart of the Bill introduced today.

The Bill seeks to acknowledge, and in some cases mitigate, the pain and distress caused to the families of missing murder victims. There are three main elements to it: first, denying parole to murderers for as long as they refuse to disclose the whereabouts of their victim’s remains; secondly, passing a full-life tariff, denying parole or release, until the murderer discloses the location and enables the recovery of their victim’s remains; and thirdly, applying the rarely used common-law offences in murder trials without a body of preventing the burial of a corpse and conspiracy to prevent the burial of a corpse, disposing of a corpse or obstructing a coroner. In essence, the proposals are simple: if a convicted killer refuses to give information to reveal the location of a victim’s body, they should not be considered eligible for parole and they should stay in prison. The proposals would effectively mean a whole-life tariff for murderers who refuse to disclose the location of their victims and enable their remains to be recovered to give families a chance to pay their last respects.

I attended the presentation of the Bill as a large number of constituents had written to me requesting my support for Helen’s Law.

I supported this Ten Minute Rule Bill because it puts victims at the heart of our legal system. Marie McCourt’s case is a heart-breaking example of where a convicted murderer is benefiting from the current law. This is plainly wrong.

When I was Justice Minister I pushed for all our policies to have victims at their very core. We have come a long way from how the law used to treat those who have been wronged, but that does not mean that we should rest on our laurels.

Conor McGinn’s Bill gives the Government the perfect opportunity to close a loophole in our law, and I hope they adopt its contents.

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