Judges urged to quash Helen McCourt killer's parole

Image source, PA

Image caption,

Helen McCourt was murdered by Ian Simms in Billinge, Merseyside, in 1988

The mother of a 22-year-old insurance clerk murdered in 1988 has asked judges to quash a Parole Board decision to release her daughter's killer.

Marie McCourt, 77, said Ian Simms should not be freed until he revealed where Helen McCourt's body was hidden.

She said the Parole Board's decision to agree to Simms' release on licence in February of this year was wrong.

Two judges are considering her judicial review application at a virtual High Court hearing.

Lady Justice Macur and Mr Justice Chamberlain have been told Ms McCourt was murdered in Billinge, Merseyside, in February 1988 while on her way home.

Simms, a former pub landlord who has always maintained his innocence, was convicted of Helen McCourt's abduction and murder in March 1989 and given a life sentence, with a minimum term of 16 years.

'Where's the body?'

Tom Little QC, representing Mrs McCourt, told judges the Parole Board panel had failed to ask Simms "obvious" questions.

These included "do you know where Helen's body is?", "why won't you say where the body is?" and "how do you feel about the impact of your continuing denial on the McCourt family?".

Joanne Cecil, representing Simms, argued Mrs McCourt did not have the legal standing to bring a judicial review application.

Nicholas Chapman, for the Parole Board, said judges have to consider whether Mrs McCourt's position was different to any other victim or relative of a victim.

He added an increase in "victim participation" in Parole Board decisions would have "significant ramifications" for the way hearings were conducted and resourced.

Mr Little said Mrs McCourt had campaigned for many years for a change in the law relating to the parole of murderers who refuse to provide information about the location of their victim's body.

Legislation in the Prisoners (Disclosure of Information about Victims) Bill - which is known as Helen's Law - is now moving towards its final stages of parliamentary scrutiny.

Image source, PA Media

Image caption,

Marie McCourt hoped her daughter's killer would never get parole

The conditions of Simms' release mean he must remain at a designated address and wear an electronic tag.

He is also subject to a curfew and must avoid contact with his victim's family.

Two judges previously refused Mrs McCourt's bid to postpone Simms' release until the judicial review had concluded.

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