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What is ‘Helen’s Law’?

‘Helen’s Law’ refers to a proposal that the law should be changed to prohibit the release on parole of offenders who were convicted of murder and have failed to reveal the location of the body of their victim.

The campaign for ‘Helen’s Law’ is led by Marie McCourt whose daughter, Helen, was murdered in 1988. Ian Simms, who was convicted of Helen’s murder, has to date not revealed the location of her body.

The petition calling for Helen’s Law has been presented to the Government by Marie McCourt, and has over 390,000 signatures.

The Ten Minute Rule Bill

Conor McGinn introduced the Unlawful Killing (Recovery of Remains) Bill 2016-17  under the “Ten Minute Rule“.  It was given a first reading on 11 October 2016. 

Amongst other proposals, the Bill would deny parole to murderers for as long as they refuse to disclose the whereabouts of their victim’s remains.

The Bill has not yet been published.  In theory, it is due to receive its Second Reading on 3 February 2017,  but it may well not be reached.  Mr McGinn has called for the Government to support his proposal or incorporate it into its legislative programme.

The Government’s response

The Government has written to the Parole Board asking it to review its guidelines on the issue. This is part of a wider review of Parole Board guidance, the results of which have not yet been published. The Government also points out that courts and the Parole Board already take refusal to reveal the location of victims’ remains into account in sentencing and parole decisions.

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