Emergency workers will receive greater protection from violent criminals after the Government confirmed ‘Harper’s Law’ would be added to the statute book.
Named after PC Andrew Harper, who was killed in the line of duty in 2019, the law will introduce mandatory life sentences for anyone convicted of killing an emergency worker whilst committing a crime.
The move follows an unwavering campaign by Andrew’s family, including his widow Lissie, and the Police Federation of England and Wales, and comes after a number of meetings with the Justice Secretary and Home Secretary.
Henry Long, Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers each received custodial sentences of between 13 and 19 years in prison for PC Harper’s manslaughter. An appeal by the Attorney General to increase their time behind bars was rejected. Ministers are determined to make sure that punishments fit the severity of the crime and are determined to introduce the law as soon as possible.
The move extends mandatory life sentences to anyone who commits the manslaughter of an emergency worker on duty – including police, prison officers, firefighters and paramedics – while carrying out another crime unless there are truly exceptional circumstances. Courts must already impose life sentences for murder, with a whole-life order being the starting point if the victim is a police officer.
Deputy Prime Minister and Lord Chancellor Dominic Raab, Secretary of State for Justice, said, “We are going to pass into law mandatory life sentences for those who unlawfully kill an emergency worker in the course of their duty. I pay tribute to Lissie Harper’s remarkable campaign. This government is on the side of victims and their families and we want our emergency services to know that we’ll always have their back.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said, “PC Andrew Harper’s killing was shocking. As well as a committed police officer, he was a husband and a son. It is with thanks to the dedication of Lissie and his family that I am proud to be able to honour Andrew’s life by introducing Harper’s Law. Those who seek to harm our emergency service workers represent the very worst of humanity and it is right that future killers be stripped of the freedom to walk our streets with a life sentence.”
Lissie Harper said, “Emergency services workers require extra protection. I know all too well how they are put at risk and into the depths of danger on a regular basis on behalf of society. That protection is what Harper’s Law will provide and I am delighted that it will soon become a reality.
“It’s been a long journey and a lot of hard work. I know Andrew would be proud to see Harper’s Law reach this important milestone.
“I’d like to thank the teams at the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office and Dominic Raab, Priti Patel and Robert Buckland for working with me to achieve this. I would also like to thank my incredible Harper’s Law team as well as the public for their unstinting support for such an important campaign. Those who believed that the right thing is worth doing despite the hurdles and challenges that we needed to be overcome. And for the families of those that this Law will provide justice for, we’re almost there. Your continued support has kept me pushing forward.”
The move follows recent government action to protect police, prison officers, firefighters and paramedics and ensure those who seek to harm them feel the full force of the law. This includes plans to double the maximum penalty for assaulting them to two years’ imprisonment.
John Apter, National Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said, “PC Andrew Harper’s shocking and needless death will live long in the memories of colleagues and police officers around the country. Our thoughts, as always, remain with his wife Lissie, his family and friends.
“The news emergency workers will receive greater protection from violent criminals is a positive step forward and a great outcome for the tireless campaigning undertaken by Lissie and supporters of Harper’s Law. I hope the introduction of a mandatory life sentence for anyone convicted of killing a police officer, or emergency worker, will act as a strong deterrent and stop needless violence against my colleagues.
“I would like to pay a personal tribute to Lissie for her dedication in seeing this change in law become a reality – I am proud that we have been able to support her. Thanks also to all of those who have helped in making this happen.”