Murderers and paedophiles could face longer behind bars if they refuse to provide information on their victims in new legislation being brought to Britain’s Parliament.
The Bill, which was presented to the UK’s House of Commons today after being mentioned in Monday’s Queen’s Speech, aims to change the law so killers are denied parole if they do not reveal where they hid their victim’s body.
It is one of the first pieces of legislation introduced in the new parliamentary session and now also applies to paedophiles who take indecent images of children but refuse to disclose their identity.
Under the new law criminals who hold back information on their victims could spend longer behind bars.
— Ministry of Justice (@MoJGovUK) October 15, 2019
Known as Helen’s law in memory of murdered Helen McCourt, the Prisoners (disclosure of information about victims) Bill will come into force once it is passed by Parliament and receives Royal Assent.
Ms McCourt’s mother Marie begged murderer Ian Simms to tell her the whereabouts of her daughter’s remains ever since the insurance clerk vanished on her way home from work in 1988.
But the pub landlord, who was convicted by a jury on overwhelming DNA evidence of the 22-year-old’s abduction and murder – and is still in jail, has always maintained his innocence.
She campaigned relentlessly to keep Simms behind bars until he helped lead police to her daughter’s body.
MPs voted in favour of the law in 2016, but it had yet to receive British Government backing, until the move was announced earlier this year.
It will make it a legal requirement for the Parole Board to take into account a killer’s failure to disclose the location of their victim’s remains when considering them for release.
Mrs McCourt, from St Helens, Merseyside, previously told the PA news agency she hoped it would stop the “torture” of killers “calling the shots” and realise they need to co-operate.
But if they do help, it should not automatically mean they can be released, she added.
British Parole Board guidance already says offenders who withhold information may still pose a risk to the public and could therefore face longer in prison.
But Helen’s Law will for the first time make it a legal requirement to consider this withholding of information when making a decision on whether to release an offender, the Ministry of Justice said.
It is hoped the legislation will be brought into force as soon as possible.
Courts can also hand down tougher sentences for murderers who deliberately conceal the location of a body.
Britain’s Justice secretary Robert Buckland said: “Innocent families should never have their grief compounded by offenders who refuse to disclose information on their victims.
“Not only will this Bill help prevent the torture of families in Marie’s situation but we also believe evil sexual offenders who refuse to identify victims should face longer behind bars.”