Widow of PC Andrew Harper wins bid to change law

The widow of Police Constable Andrew Harper has succeeded in her two-year campaign to go give mandatory life sentences to the killers of emergency service workers.

Nov 24, 2021
By Tony Thompson
PC Andrew Harper

PC Harper was 28 and had been married to Lissie Harper for less than a month when he was dragged to his death by a getaway car in August 2019.

Henry Long, 19, was jailed for 16 years and 18-year-olds Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers were were each sentenced to 13 years in prison for the manslaughter of the Thames Valley Police traffic officer.

Long, the leader of the group, admitted manslaughter, while passengers Cole and Bowers were convicted of manslaughter after a trial at the Old Bailey. All three were cleared of murder by the jury. A subsequent appeal by the Attorney General to increase the length of their sentences was rejected.

Harper’s Law, as it has become known, is expected to make it onto the statute books via an amendment to the existing Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, meaning it would likely get Royal Assent and become law early next year.

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, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Dominic Raab 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.

Ms 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.”

National Police Chiefs’ Council Chair, Martin Hewitt said: “Police officers and staff are out in all of our communities day and night dealing with crime and criminals. They very often have to place themselves in harm’s way and tragically, as we all saw with the loss of PC Andrew Harper, that can result in the ultimate sacrifice.

“Officers and staff deserve the full protection of the criminal justice system, and today’s announcement supporting a change in the law so that criminals who kill emergency workers in the course of their duty can be jailed for life is welcome.”

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