Introduce ‘Helen’s Law': where hiding a body, preventing a burial and obstructing a coroner become criminal offences - with ‘whole life’ tariffs
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To lose a loved one is devastating. To lose a loved one to murder is horrific. To be denied their funeral causes unimaginable suffering. I have endured this nightmare for almost 28 years.
Ian Simms is serving a life sentence (on overwhelming forensic evidence) for the murder of my daughter Helen McCourt, aged 22, on 9 February 1988, in Billinge, Lancs. For almost three decades Simms has refused to reveal the whereabouts of Helen’s body – denying us the chance to grant her the dignity of a funeral and resting place.
The case made legal history as only the third ever UK murder trial without a body. Sadly, as killers go to ever-desperate lengths to hide evidence and evade justice such cases have become more common. Without stiffer penalties they will continue to rise.
In January 2016 a Parole Board will decide on Simms’ application for freedom. As it currently stands, the English legal system does not require a convicted murderer (at the end of their determined tariff) to admit guilt or reveal the location of a victim’s remains before being released.
If parole is granted, my hopes of finding my daughter may never be realised. No other family should live this ordeal.
I, hereby, petition the Prime Minister David Cameron and Home Secretary Theresa May to acknowledge the pain and distress caused to the families of missing murder victims by:
- Denying parole to murderers for as long as they refuse to disclose the whereabouts of their victim’s remains
- Passing a full life tariff (denying parole or release) until the murderer discloses the location (and enables the recovery) of their victim’s remains
- Automatically applying the following rarely-used common law offences in murder trials without a body*; preventing the burial of a corpse and conspiracy to prevent the burial of a corpse, disposing of a corpse, obstructing a coroner
(*as in the case of R v Hunter, 1974 (from Archbold, Criminal Pleading Evidence and Practice 2015)
Denying a funeral is, surely, an infringement of basic human rights. Please support me.
Picture by Chris Neill
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