A mother has failed in a bid to persuade judges to order a review of a Parole Board decision to release a man convicted of murdering her 22-year-old daughter more than 30 years ago.
Marie McCourt, of Billinge, Merseyside, says former pub landlord Ian Simms should not have been released from jail until he reveals where Helen McCourt’s body is hidden.
She claims that a November 2019 Parole Board decision to release Simms on licence was wrong and should be reviewed.
Two judges ruled against her on Tuesday.
Lady Justice Macur and Mr Justice Chamberlain had considered McCourt’s judicial review application at a virtual High Court in July.
They heard that insurance clerk Helen was murdered in Billinge in Merseyside in February 1988, while on her way home.
Simms was found guilty of her abduction and murder after a trial at Liverpool Crown Court in March 1989 and given a life sentence, with a minimum term of 16 years.
He denied being responsible but a jury at Liverpool Crown Court convicted him amid overwhelming DNA evidence.
McCourt and her husband John Sandwell have campaigned relentlessly to keep Simms behind bars until he provides information which would lead to the recovery of her daughter’s body.
In October 2016, MPs voted in favour of a new “Helen’s Law” to deny killers parole if they will not reveal where victims’ remains are but it has yet to receive the government backing it needs to become law.
In February 2017, justice minister Phillip Lee told the Commons that such a move risked creating “perverse incentives” for murderers to lie about where their victims were buried, causing further “unthinkable” pain for families of those killed.
A Parole Board spokesman said after Tuesday’s ruling: “The Parole Board notes the decision of the court in the judicial review proceedings brought by Marie McCourt.
“The Parole Board has immense sympathy for families of victims who have never been found and recognises the pain and anguish they have endured.
“The board remains absolutely committed to ensuring that victims and their families are treated with the utmost respect and dignity during the parole process and appreciates the distress that a parole review of the offender is likely to cause.
“The Parole Board is however required by law to focus on whether a prisoner’s continued detention remains necessary for the protection of the public.
“As a body making judicial decisions, the Parole Board does not ordinarily defend its decisions when they are reviewed by a senior court and took a neutral stance on the challenge to its decision in this judicial review.
“The court, in this case, found the Parole Board panel’s decision and its approach was legally sound. The underlying legal issues raised in this case are complex and emotive and the board will keep its guidance under review.
“It is not for the Parole Board to publicly defend the decisions of its members, who are entirely independent, and it would be inappropriate to get into the rights and wrongs of any particular decision.”