UK To Deny Parole To Killers Unless They Reveal Location Of Victims' Bodies

Under a new law, the UK will now deny parole to murderers who decline revealing where victims' remains can be found.

The law, known as 'Helen's Law', is the result of a four-year campaign led by the grieving mother of Helen McCourt, a 22-year-old woman who was murdered in 1988.

Helen was murdered by landlord of a pub, Ian Simms, who she had an altercation with several days before her disappearance.

Traces of Helen's blood were found in Simm's apartment and her belongings, including clothing and jewellery, were retrieved from the bank of a river, but her body was never found.

Helen McCourt. Source: AAP Photos.

Simms was jailed for life in 1989 with a non-parole period of 16 years.

Helen's mother, Marie McCourt, has written to Simms in prison repeatedly begging for him to disclose where her body was dumped.

McCourt told BBC Breakfast that it's "hard to lose a loved one in any circumstances, but to have them murdered is horrific."

"But then to not have their remains to be able to go and put flowers on, it's a grief that can't come out of you."

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After receiving nearly 600,000 signatures on an online petition in 2015, Helen's Law passed the House of Commons in 2016 ,but the legislation just received government backing with support from justice secretary David Gauke.

The law places a legal duty on parole boards to consider murderers' failure to "disclose the site of a victim's remains".

Source: Getty.

However, the legislation is not free of criticism. Justice Minister Phillip Lee indicated in 2017 the law also came with a risk of killers simply lying about the whereabouts of bodies, leading to further pain for families of victims.

While the 'no body, no parole' laws have not been adopted in federal criminal legislation in Australia, several states have adopted the concept.

Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Victoria have all legislated an obligation for parole boards to consider failure to disclose the whereabouts of victims' remains in recent years.

Queensland Parliament voted unanimously in favour of the 'no body, no parole' laws in 2017 following the murder of Timothy Pullen, a 34-year-old man who was killed by six other men in 2012.

Pullen's body was never found after allegedly being dumped in Collinsville, north-west of Mackay.

Timothy Pullen. Source: AAP Photos.

In New South Wales, it is not legislated but it is a recognised consideration for parole boards.

However, critics of the legislation say it's a "knee-jerk" reaction and argue that alternative punishments such as revoking working rights within prison could lead to prisoners disclosing this information more effectively.

Commentators such as Russell Goldflam, president of the Criminal Lawyers Association of the Northern Territory, also argue that this could further complicate wrongful convictions.

Goldflam told the ABC that in the famous case of Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton, who was wrongfully convicted of the murder of her daughter in 1980, Chamberlain would not have had the opportunity for parole despite not actually knowing the whereabouts of her daughter's remains.

"Laws like this, which have been passed in parts of Australia really are a bit of a knee-jerk reaction by governments who want to be seen to be tough on crime [and] beat the law and order drum so that more people will be inclined to vote for them," Goldflam said.