Helen McCourt murderer Ian Simms to be released from prison
8 January 2020, 18:37
The murderer of Helen McCourt will be released from prison 30 years after her death after the justice secretary’s bid to keep him behind bars was rejected.
Ian Simms has met the test for release three decades after the 22-year-old went missing, despite never revealing where he hid her body.
Helen’s mother Marie asked Robert Buckland to step in, but the Parole Board confirmed on Thursday that it is standing by its original decision to free Simms after refusing Mr Buckland’s request.
A Parole Board spokesman said: "The Parole Board has decided that the original decision to release Ian Simms should stand, after considering a reconsideration application from the Secretary of State.
"Whilst the Parole Board has every sympathy with Helen McCourt's family, if the board is satisfied that imprisonment is no longer necessary for the protection of the public, they are legally obliged to direct release."
Simms will not be released imminently and it could take weeks to arrange but may be dependent on whether campaigners launch legal action against the ruling.
Pub landlord Simms, who was convicted by a jury on overwhelming DNA evidence of Ms McCourt's abduction and murder, is serving his life sentence at HMP Garth in Leyland, Lancashire.
He has always maintained his innocence over the death of Ms McCourt, an insurance clerk who vanished on her way home from work in Liverpool in 1988.
Simms was convicted of her murder the following year, having been told he would serve at least 16 years and one day behind bars.
He was eligible to be considered for release in February 2004.
Mr Buckland said: "The reconsideration of this case by a Parole Board judge is a process independent from Government but we are obviously disappointed with the outcome.
"I understand this will be extremely upsetting for the family of Helen McCourt and my heartfelt sympathies remain with them.
"Marie McCourt has told me and my predecessors repeatedly of the additional anguish experienced by her and others in similar situations.
"I hope Helen's Law, which is now before Parliament, will serve as a lasting legacy to Helen and to the bravery of Marie and her family."
The original decision came after Mrs McCourt's campaign to keep killers behind bars until they lead police to the victim's body, dubbed Helen's Law, failed to be ratified before Parliament on numerous occasions - twice being delayed because of general elections.
The Prisoners (Disclosure of Information about Victims) Bill was brought back to Parliament on Wednesday but a date has not yet been set for it to be properly debated by MPs.
Mrs McCourt previously said she was "in shock" at the decision to consider Simms' release.