Mum fears losing her home in legal fight to keep daughter’s murderer in jail
The grieving mother behind the Helen’s Law campaign faces losing her home if a legal challenge to return her daughter’s murderer to prison fails.
Marie McCourt has applied for the High Court to review the Parole Board decision that freed on licence Ian Simms, 63, who had been serving a life sentence for the abduction and murder of her 22-year-old daughter Helen McCourt in 1988.
Simms has refused to disclose the location of Helen’s body, with constant campaigning by Mrs McCourt leading to legislation currently before the House of Lords which would deny parole to such killers.
But Mrs McCourt, from Billinge, Merseyside, is now worried as she faces more than £75,000 in costs if her High Court bid, which is listed to be heard from July 29, is unsuccessful. She explained: ‘Simms has already stolen my daughter and my right to give her a Christian burial. Now, I could lose my home and be left destitute. Helen loved this house and it holds so many memories of her. How is this fair?’
The Parole Board recommended Simms should be released following a hearing in November 2019.
The board reviewed its decision following a challenge by Justice Secretary Robert Buckland, but again concluded, on January 8, that Simms should be freed.
Mrs McCourt expressed gratitude for her pro bono legal assistance and her fear about the battle ahead.
“But proceeding with this action means I could lose my home, security and sanity. I really feel I have been pushed to the very brink and am teetering on a cliff edge,” she said.
After Simms’s release, a Ministry of Justice spokesman said: ‘We completely understand the pain and anguish that the Parole Board’s decision has caused Marie McCourt and her family.
‘The High Court’s ruling meant we had to release Ian Simms from custody though he will be recalled if the court later decides to quash the Parole Board’s decision.’
The spokesman continued: ‘He will be on licence for life, subject to strict conditions and probation supervision when released, and he faces a return to prison if he fails to comply.’
The Prisoners (Disclosure of Information about Victims) Bill, dubbed Helen’s Law, has already been approved by MPs.
If passed in the House of Lords, it will deny parole to killers who refuse to reveal the location of their victims’ bodies and will also apply to offenders who do not reveal the identity of child victims in indecent images.