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Legislation pressuring killers to give location of victims' bodies 'must be applied to Nairac case'

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Robert Nairac

Robert Nairac

Helen McCourt

Helen McCourt

Charlotte Murray

Charlotte Murray

John Miller

John Miller

John Simms

John Simms

Robert Nairac

A law compelling killers to disclose the location of their victim's body should apply to on-the-run suspects in the Robert Nairac case if they are ever convicted, the Ulster Unionists have said.

Lagan Valley MLA Robbie Butler told Justice Minister Naomi Long that if 'Helen's Law' was introduced in Northern Ireland, it must cover anyone who may be found guilty of the 1977 murder of the undercover British soldier.

Earlier in the Assembly yesterday, DUP MLA Alex Easton asked Mrs Long if there were local plans to introduce the legislation, which denies parole to killers who refuse to disclose the location of bodies.

John Miller

The Prisoners (Disclosure of Information About Victims) Bill, dubbed Helen's Law, passed its remaining stages in the House of Commons yesterday.

It is named after Helen McCourt, whose murderer Ian Simms was released from prison last month despite never revealing where her remains are.

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Helen McCourt

Helen McCourt

Helen McCourt

The 22-year-old insurance clerk disappeared in February 1988 shortly after getting off a bus less than 500 yards from her Merseyside home. Her body has never been found.

The law, as proposed for England and Wales, will place a legal duty on the parole board to consider the anguish caused by murderers who refuse to disclose the location of a victim's body when considering their release from prison.

Mr Easton asked Mrs Long if she planned to introduce it here. He said that the families of Lisa Dorrian, who disappeared from a Co Down caravan park 15 years ago, and of Omagh woman Charlotte Murray, who was killed in 2012 by her boyfriend but whose remains have never been found, wanted Helen's Law introduced here.

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Charlotte Murray

Charlotte Murray

Charlotte Murray

The Justice Minister said that she would be meeting with Ms Murray's family next week and would consider the matter in light of the law change in England and Wales.

Mr Butler asked Mrs Long for reassurance that if Helen's Law was introduced here it would apply to anyone convicted in future of Captain Nairac's murder.

Referring to suspects who he said were on the run in the US, the UUP MLA asked that they not be released after two years - under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement - if they were convicted and then refused to disclose information on where the soldier was buried.

Mrs Long said that it would not be appropriate for her to "pre-judge whether or not Helen's Law will be introduced because we have not made a decision on that and it is still under consideration".

John Simms

Making changes to the 1998 Agreement would be a matter for the Northern Ireland Office (NIO), she added.

Mr Butler last night said: "The UUP supports the introduction of Helen's Law in Northern Ireland. Given the drive for truth and justice, we firmly believes that, if introduced, Helen's Law should supersede any commitment on prisoner release made in the Good Friday Agreement."

Meanwhile, the DUP has asked Mrs Long to bring forward a plan to implement the Commissioner for Older People's report calling for change in how older victims of crime experience the criminal justice system.

North Antrim MLA Mervyn Storey said: "The rate of crime against older people has remained consistent over the past decade despite a reduction in other forms of crime. Outcome rates also lag roughly 2% behind those for crimes against other age groups."

Mrs Long said officials in her department were working on the report's recommendations.

She added that many would require "collaboration with other delivery partners and with criminal justice in other sectors".

Belfast Telegraph