Prisoners (Disclosure of Information about Victims) Bill: Briefing for Lords Stages

This bill would legally require the Parole Board to consider offenders’ failure to disclose either the location of victims’ remains or the identity of child victims in indecent images when assessing whether that offender should be released from prison.

Guidance provided to Parole Board panel members already advises they consider any failure or refusal by an offender to disclose information such as the location of victims’ remains and identity of child victims in indecent images. The Prisoners (Disclosure of Information about Victims) Bill is government legislation which would turn this into a statutory obligation.

The bill follows a campaign by Marie McCourt, the mother of Helen McCourt who was murdered in 1988. Ian Simms, the man convicted of her murder, has never revealed the whereabouts of her body. Certain provisions in the bill have been referred to as ‘Helen’s Law’. The bill also follows the case of nursery worker Vanessa George, who was convicted of the abuse of children and of making indecent images of her victims. Ms George has never disclosed the identities of the children involved, adding to the distress caused to the families of those at the nursery where she was employed.

The bill completed all its stages in the House of Commons on 3 March 2020. It received cross-party support. The provisions in the bill would apply to prisoners serving a life sentence for murder or manslaughter, and for those serving an extended determinate sentence (or a similar predecessor sentence) for manslaughter or for taking or making an indecent photograph or pseudo-photograph of a child. The Government amended the bill at committee stage to ensure it would also apply to cases where the Parole Board is making a public protection decision about a life prisoner convicted of similar qualifying offences of making indecent images of children.

The obligations to take such non-disclosures into account would apply to all such sentences, including those imposed prior to this bill coming into force. However, the obligations would only apply to decisions about the first release of an offender. Subsequent releases following a recall to prison would not be affected. The provisions of the bill would apply to England and Wales only.

  • Lords Research Briefing LLN-2020-0081
  • Author: James Tobin
  • Topics: Crime, Justice