THE family of Helen McCourt are seeking an urgent judicial review to prevent her killer being released from prison after the Parole Board decided not to reconsider their decision.

A legal team has made the request on the family's behalf, her brother Mike confirmed, after the Parole Board refused the Justice Secretary's request to keep murderer Ian Simms behind bars, standing by its original decision to free him.

Ms McCourt's mother Marie had called on Justice Secretary Robert Buckland to step in after the board decided Simms had met the test for release three decades after the 22-year-old went missing.

Speaking to the PA news agency on Thursday, Mike McCourt said: "We are seeking an urgent judicial review. That is our next step. We have a legal team helping us out."

He said lawyers had already been in contact with Mr Buckland about the move.

Describing the family's reaction to Wednesday's decision by the Parole Board, Mr McCourt said: "My mum took it in her stride.

"I expected the decision to go that way. I hoped, but I knew they wouldn't overturn their own decision.

"When it came out it was hard to take. It all seems to be going against us but we have to keep fighting."

On Wednesday, Marie McCourt and Mr Buckland both said they were "disappointed" with the decision.

St Helens Star:

The McCourt family outside 10 Downing Street, including Mike, second from left

The minister's request for a reconsideration was made on grounds including that the original decision was "irrational" and "erroneous", according to documents on the application.

In his findings, Parole Board chairman Sir David Calvert-Smith, a former director of public prosecutions and retired judge who reviewed the request, said it was "impossible" to characterise the decision as "irrational" so the application was refused.

Simms will not be released immediately and it could take weeks to arrange and may be dependent on whether campaigners launch legal action against the ruling.

The original decision came after Mrs McCourt's campaign to keep killers behind bars until they lead police to a victim's body, dubbed Helen's Law, failed to be ratified before Parliament on numerous occasions - twice being delayed because of general elections.

Mr McCourt said it was "ironic" that the Prisoners (Disclosure of Information about Victims) Bill named after his sister was brought back to Parliament on the day the Parole Board's decision was announced.

A date has not been set for the Bill to be properly debated by MPs.

St Helens North MP Conor McGinn has lent his support to the McCourt family on their decision to challenge the ruling.

He said: "I fully support Marie McCourt and her family in challenging this decision in the courts.

"Releasing a convicted murderer who still refuses to give information about the location of his victim’s remains is an affront to common decency, and will appal millions of people across the country.

"I’m working with the Government to urgently progress Helen’s Law, so that other families will hopefully not be faced with the same heartbreak and devastation as the McCourt's have been this week.”

Earlier today Marie McCourt said: "I am very disappointed with the Parole Board's announcement and do not accept what they are saying - that Simms is safe to be released.

"I am consulting my legal team to discuss my next steps."