The news that offenders convicted of killing emergency workers in the course of their duties will receive mandatory life sentences has been welcomed by the Police Federation.
The Ministry of Justice announced today that it will change the law “as soon as possible” following a campaign by Lissie Harper, whose husband PC Andrew Harper was horrifically killed in August 2019.
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.”
Liz Groom, chair of Cambridgeshire Police Federation, has also supported this latest development.
“PC Andrew Harper’s death shocked the nation. Having only married Lissie a few weeks earlier, he had his whole life in front of him and we can only imagine the devastation his death caused his young wife, his family, his friends and his colleagues,” said Liz.
“But Lissie has shown incredibly determination in driving this change in the law and it seems fitting that her husband’s name will live on in a law that will ensure those who show scant regard for the lives of the very emergency service workers who seek to serve and protect the public are appropriately punished.”
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.
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.
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.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel commented: “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.”