CONOR McGinn MP says the second reading of Helen's Law in parliament is evidence of how "one citizen has the power, solely based on her love for her daughter, to do right by her memory".

Helen McCourt was abducted and murdered by George and Dragon pub landlord Ian Simms from Billinge 32 years ago.

She vanished on February 9, 1988 and her body has never been found.

Simms denied being responsible but a jury at Liverpool Crown Court convicted him amid overwhelming DNA evidence.

Helen's mum Marie,74, has spent four years fighting for a law change, which calls for killers who do not reveal the whereabouts of a victim's body to not be eligible for parole.

St Helens Star: Helen McCourt was murdered in 1988

Helen McCourt

The Brexit process and last year's general election has delayed the law coming into force, although it is now progressing through parliament.

In November, following a Parole Board hearing, it was announced that after 31 years behind bars, Simms, 63, would be released on licence subject to conditions.

Despite appeals and legal challenges Simms was released last week, just days before the 32nd anniversary of Helen's murder.

Marie went to Parliament yesterday, Tuesday, February 11 to finally hear the second reading of the bill known as Helen's Law be discussed in the House of Commons.

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During the hearing, St Helens North MP, Conor McGinn said: "It might seem a strange thing to say when we are discussing what I suspect many would view as a technical Bill, but the genesis of our being here to debate it on Second Reading is love –the love of Marie McCourt for her daughter, Helen.

St Helens Star: Marie McCourt is campaigning for the introduction of Helen's Law

Marie McCourt has fought for Helen's Law

"I am so proud and pleased to see Marie and her husband, John, and their close family friend Fiona Duffy, who has done so much work in the campaign, here to see this come to fruition today.

"I want to pay tribute to the Secretary of State for Justice and his ministerial team for the way in which they have approached this legislation.

"It is not everything that we had wanted or hoped for, down to the crossed t or the dotted i, but he is a man of his word and put a significant amount of effort into ensuring that all the legal complications that were put before us were overcome.

"As has been said, Helen McCourt was murdered in my constituency, in Billinge, in 1988. The death devastated her family—Marie, her mother, and her brother, Michael—but it was the love they had for Helen and for each other that allowed them to remain together as a family unit.

"It was the love that the community in Billinge and St Helens have shown for Marie since then, and up to this very week, which has been a tremendous testament to the strong sense of solidarity that we have there.

"Marie’s campaign, driven entirely by Marie, not only attracted half a million signatures from people across the country, to the purpose of what the Bill is today, but meant that many more families knew that they were not alone.

"They knew that it was not just them, that they were not the only ones facing the horror, trauma and awfulness of not only having a loved one murdered, but then not being able to give their loved one a final resting place.

St Helens Star: Convicted murderer Ian Simms pictured 20 years ago

Ian Simms flanked by prison guards in 1989

"For Marie, that feeling is centred very much around the church in Billinge where, two years ago, for the 30th anniversary of Helen’s death, hundreds of people from across the community came out to show their love, solidarity and support for Marie.

"Helen’s law is so vital, not just for the families we know about already, but unfortunately for the families who will face this heinous and terrible scenario in future.

"Today is bittersweet because, as many in the House will know, just last week Helen McCourt’s murderer was released from prison.

"Marie has shown dignity, tenacity and sacrifice in continuing to pursue the campaign throughout the frustrations of Helen’s law falling because the House was prorogued and Parliament then dissolved.

"The fact that she has stuck with it because she knows that it will help other families is testament to her and to her character.

"Ian Simms was released. The Parole Board in my view made an appalling decision that, to his credit, the Secretary of State for Justice gave it the opportunity to rectify. The Parole Board did not do that.

St Helens Star: Marie McCourt is due to meet Ian Simms at a parole board meeting

The Star has covered the story for three decades

"Arising from this Bill and that case are wider questions to be asked about the Parole Board and about how victims feel in relation to its conduct vis-à-vis assessing dispassionately the actions of the perpetrator rather than concentrating on the sensitivities of the family.

"The fact that he was released just days before the 32nd anniversary of Helen’s death was quite frankly incomprehensible to me and caused additional suffering and hurt to the McCourt family.

"The reason I took on the campaign in Parliament on Marie’s behalf was not just that she is my constituent and a dear friend, but that it was the right thing to do.

"​This is very simply a case of what is moral and what is just. If a person murders someone, is convicted of that crime and does not reveal or give information as to the whereabouts of their victim’s remains, they should not be entitled to be released from prison, because the families of victims are never released from their sentence, especially because they have no right or recourse to give their loved ones that final place of rest.

"It would ill behove anyone watching this debate or hearing about the sequence of events that led up to Ian Simms’s release not to ensure that this legislation is a hugely significant factor when they look at parole for convicted murderers.

"I thank the Daily Mirror for its support for this campaign over many years, and my local newspaper, the St Helens Star, as well as so many colleagues from all parties who, in discovering that they had in their constituencies families in awful situations similar to that of the McCourts, made a huge effort to support, reach out to and involve those families in an inclusive, passionate and ultimately just campaign.

"I am very proud to see the Government bring forward this Bill, which challenges a few orthodoxies.

"One is that the Government do not listen; the second is that we cannot change the law from the Back Benches; and the third is that one citizen does not have the power, solely based on her love for her daughter, to do right by her memory."

St Helens Star: Ian Simms (55517781)

Ian Simms after being arrested in 1988

Robert Buckland, Justice Secretary, added: "Despite its full and proper title, this is a Bill that we have all come to know as Helen’s Law. Helen’s mother, Marie McCourt, has long campaigned for this change to the law. I want to take the opportunity—and I am sure that the whole House will want to join me—to pay tribute to her bravery, her determination and her tenacity. It is in large part thanks to her that we have reached this point at all."

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Clause 1 of the bill - the official name of it being Prisoners (Disclosure of Information About Victims) Bill) - looks to amend the release provisions that apply to life sentences for murder and manslaughter so that those who do not disclose information about a victim’s remains will not be eligible for parole.

Clause 2 of the bill will amend the release provisions that apply to the release conditions on parole of those sentenced for making indecent photographs of children and not disclosing the identity of a child or children featured in such images.