IAN Simms the man who murdered Helen McCourt 31 years ago is to be released from prison.

The decision to free the 63-year-old on licence follows a Parole Board hearing that took place a fortnight ago.

A Parole Board Decision Summary stated that after taking into account all the circumstances and evidence presented at the hearing, the panel was satisfied that Simms met the test for release.

Pub landlord Simms abducted and murdered insurance clerk Helen McCourt, 22, from Billinge on her way home from work in February 1988.

He denied being responsible but a jury at Liverpool Crown Court convicted him amid overwhelming DNA evidence, despite Helen’s body never being found.

 St Helens Star:

Ian Simms

He was jailed for life and told he would have to serve at least 16 years before he could be considered for parole.

Simms has gone on to serve more than three decades in jail. This was his seventh review by the Parole Board and since 2016 he had been in an open prison.

St Helens Star: Helen McCourt murder

Marie McCourt attended the parol Board hearing a fortnight ago

Helen’s mum Marie, who is devastated by today's news, continues to search for Helen's body, most recently carrying out renewed searches at Rixton Claypits, in Warrington, where some believe her body could be hidden.

Marie has spent four years fighting for a law change calling for killers who do not reveal the whereabouts of their victims' bodies to not be eligible for parole.

St Helens Star: Helen McCourt was murdered in 1988

Helen McCourt: Her body has never been found

In May it was announced that the law had Government support and last month it was mentioned in the Queen’s Speech.

But the latest Parole Board hearing came before the law could go through the process of being entered into the statute books.

Marie said: "I can't believe this I can't believe the reasons they have used to release him, I just can't believe they think he's safe to be released.

"The fact that they are saying because he has convinced himself he didn't do it means that he is innocent is nonsense.

"He is as determined of not letting me know where Helen is as I am of making sure that he never walks free unless he does.

"My daughter is dead, she never got to grow old, he took that from us, and I don't care how well he is doing in prison - he has not said where she is so he is not reformed.

"I started all of this four years ago on December 15, I have been promised and promised and delayed because of politics and Brexit or whatever and now he is being released before Helen's Law is to be brought into the statute books.

"I have cried, screamed and been upset but now I am just angry, this is not justice.

"His parole has been rushed through and now that parliament is not sitting Conor (McGinn) is limited of what he can do.

"Helen cannot walk free from where he left her, I have had to be my daughter's voice for 31 years, this man's lies means she is not at peace and I will not stop until I have an answer as to where she is.

"I've had 300,000 signatures, marched up to 10 Downing Street, had it in the Queen's Speech and had the backing of loads of people, but he's walking free.

"How long will these limitations last? A few months or years?

"After that he will be back, we aren't safe, he is not safe to be around anyone.

"I just cannot believe this has happened."

A spokesperson for the Parole Board said: “The Parole Board directed the release of Ian Simms, following a parole review that was concluded in November 2019.

“The Parole Board must make its decisions solely focused on whether a prisoner would represent a significant risk to the public after release.

!The panel will have carefully looked at a whole range of evidence, including details of the original evidence and any evidence of behaviour change.

“This is done with great care and public safety is the number one priority.”

Here is the parole summary: 
We have highlighted key quotes for readers.

"Having considered the index offence and the evidence before it, the panel listed risk factors associated with Mr Simms at the time of offending.

"Risk factors are the things in life that make it more likely that Mr Simms would offend.

"These had included thinking it is acceptable to use violence in certain situations, using violence to solve problems, unhelpful attitudes towards women, bearing a grudge, struggling to cope with his emotions, using illegal drugs, misusing alcohol, not following the rules, not understanding his own risk factors and not having the skills to manage them. 

"In addition, the panel identified that mental health issues and not taking the necessary medication properly were risk factors that had developed since coming to prison.

"In making its decision the panel also carefully considered the continued denial of this offence and Mr Simms’ failure to disclose the whereabouts of the victim’s body. 
The panel received submissions from the Secretary of State regarding the legal aspects of this case. 

"The panel is bound by decisions made by the Court of Appeal and the Administrative Court where these issues have been discussed. 

"The panel also followed the official Guidance set out by the Parole Board on when the body of the victim has never been disclosed.

"The panel made it clear that its decision is based on the conviction being entirely correct. The panel therefore has to look at the reasons why Mr Simms has not revealed this information.

"Both psychologists had completed assessments of Mr Simms, which took into account the ongoing denial of the offence and presented their findings to the panel. Having carefully considered the expert evidence, the panel concluded there is no prospect of Mr Simms ever disclosing the whereabouts of his victim even if he were kept in prison until he died. This is because Mr

"Simms is so heavily invested in presenting himself as someone who is innocent of the index offence, to the point where he may believe that to be the case, that he will avoid any behaviour that would be inconsistent with this presentation of himself.

"This refusal inevitably continues to cause understandable distress and misery to the victim’s family and the panel concluded this demonstrated a lack of empathy.

"As the panel is required to do so, the panel looked at how Mr Simms’ denial impacts on the risk posed to the public and it concluded that this was a significant factor. As a consequence Mr Simms was unable to complete any accredited offending behaviour programmes because of the denial.

"However, as set out by previous case law, the Parole Board must consider this amongst the other relevant risk factors when making its decisions and not view denial as a necessarily determining factor.

"The panel also considered whether Mr Simms presented any risk of violence to members of the victims’ family. The panel noted that in 1991 and 1993, when Mr

"Simms suffered from poor mental health, he had made contact with the family of the victim. However, the panel was satisfied that Mr Simms does not now present such a risk.

"The panel listed protective factors that are now in place for Mr Simms. 
Protective factors are the things in life that make it less likely that he would reoffend.

"These included having family support, having a good understanding of his own mental health issues, taking his medication properly and his good communication with the professionals that work with him.

"Evidence was presented regarding the times that Mr Simms has spent on temporary release since his move to open conditions over three years ago, which included periods of time spent overnight.

"The panel heard that Mr Simms had followed the rules when trusted with temporary release and had coped well with them.

"The official supervising Mr Simms’ case and the probation officers dealing with his case in the community also recommended that he should be released. Both psychologists also recommended that Mr Simms should be released.

"The panel considered the release plan provided by Mr Simms’ probation officer. The plan included significant monitoring and professional support.

"The panel concluded this plan was robust enough to manage Mr Simms in the community.

"Taking into account the denial, the refusal to reveal where the victim’s body is, all the risk factors, the progress that Mr Simms has made, the considerable change in his behaviour, the fact that he has not been involved in any violence or substance misuse for many years, his protective factors, the recommendations from all the professionals and all the evidence presented at the hearing, the panel was satisfied that Mr Simms met the test for release.

"Mr Simms’ release is subject to the following licence conditions, which must be strictly adhered to, including:
• To reside at a designated address, be of good behaviour, and report as required for supervision or other appointments;
• To wear a GPS tagging device to monitor his whereabouts
• To avoid any contact with the victim’s family and comply with an associated exclusion zone;
• To abide by an overnight curfew;
• To notify his probation officer of any developing relationships with women.
These conditions may be added to, or varied, on application to the Parole Board."