IAIN WRIGHT: Justice and comfort for victims’ families

Helen McCourt
Helen McCourt

Murder is the most heinous crime imaginable. The families victims leave behind must go through horrific emotions of grief and anguish. Part of the justice system should and must be to help those victims’ families feel that justice has been done.

In some cases of murder the body of the victim is never found. The killer somehow gets a kick out of the power and control that they might feel by not telling the family or the police where they had left the body. To deny victims’ families the peace, grace and some measure of comfort that may come from saying goodbye to their loved one with a proper funeral must make them feel like they are losing them over and over again.

There is a hope that the law might be changed to try to help those victims’ families. The House of Commons this week passed the first stage that would change the law.

This was in response to demands for a so-called “Helen’s Law”. Helen McCourt was murdered in 1988 at the age of just 22 by the landlord of the Liverpool pub where she had worked as a barmaid. Helen’s body has never been found.

In a landmark case for the time, in the light of the then emerging technology, Helen’s killer was convicted as a result of DNA evidence. And yet, he has never given Helen’s mother the comfort of telling the authorities where Helen’s remains are. On top of the overwhelming grief of losing a daughter in the most horrific way imaginable, Helen’s mother has been tormented time and time again. This is callous and shows no remorse for what the killer did.

Helen’s killer has served a prison sentence of close to 30 years. He may soon be released on parole. Now, of course, people will want to discuss and debate whether a life sentence should mean life. Many people will question why a murderer should be released at all. But, having served nearly 30 years, the possibility of parole has been raised and he could soon be released.

Having a murderer released on parole should be subject to many things, particularly as to whether the person represents a dangerous threat to society. But there is and should also be an assessment as to whether the murderer has changed their ways and shown remorse for what they have done. It seems clear to me, and to most people I believe, that in the circumstances regarding Helen’s murder, the killer shows no remorse whatsoever because he won’t reveal what he did with her body. I believe in the principle – no remorse, no release. In the case of Helen’s law, it would be translated into a “no body, no parole” for murderers.

A petition for the Government to agree to Helen’s Law has reached 340,000 signatures. A couple of constituents have contacted me to show their support for it. I absolutely agree.

The Ten Minute Rule Bill passed its first stage in the House of Commons this week. I hope the Government will support the idea to ensure that this can be passed into law as quickly as possible as a means of providing justice and some degree of comfort for the families of murder victims.