Killer says jail term ‘violates human rights’

Gemma Simpson murder
Gemma Simpson murder

A killer from Scarborough, who kept the location of the remains of the woman he bludgeoned and stabbed to death secret for 14 years, is appealing against his jail term.

Martin Christopher Bell, 46, of St Leonard’s Crescent, says the minimum 12-year sentence he was handed last year violated his human rights.

Bell was given a life sentence for the manslaughter of Gemma Simpson at Leeds Crown Court in December last year.

He was ordered to serve a minimum “tariff” of 12 years behind bars before he could even apply for parole.

Bell, a schizophrenic, pleaded guilty on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

He struck Miss Simpson, from Leeds, repeatedly with a hammer and stabbed her after telling her “God wants me to kill you” in May 2000.

But the 23-year-old’s remains were not found until 2014. Bell had dismembered her body before burying it at Brimham Rocks, near Harrogate. The taxi driver walked into a Scarborough police station to confess and told officers where he had buried Miss Simpson’s body in July last year.

Paul Greaney QC, for Bell, today argued his minimum jail term was far too tough and breached his human rights.

Back in 2000, when sentencing guidelines were much less tough, he would have received less than a 12-year tariff even if he had been convicted of murder, the barrister said.

“If the minimum term had been fixed in accordance with the standards of 2000, it would not have been 12 years but in the region of six years,” he added.

But Simon Myerson QC, for the Crown, said the judge who jailed Bell was “obliged to form a view as to risk and to impose a sentence expressly on the basis of that risk”.

Lady Justice Macur, sitting with Mr Justice Green and Judge Neil Bidder QC, will give their decision on Bell’s appeal at a later date.

They observed that there was “obviously an important issue at stake”.

Gemma’s father, Glenn, described the time since her disappearance and the discovery of her body in August last year as “4,980 days of pain”.

A family statement read: “Her family will never come to terms with the loss of Gemma. We are victims as well.”