PC Andrew Harper’s widow wins bid to change law

PC Andrew Harper
PC Andrew Harper married his childhood sweetheart Lissie four weeks before he was killed

A campaign by PC Andrew Harper’s widow to give mandatory life sentences to the killers of emergency service workers has been backed by the government.

Newly-married PC Harper was 28 when he was dragged to his death by a getaway car in August 2019. Three teenagers were jailed for manslaughter.

The Ministry of Justice said it would aim to pass Harper’s Law in England and Wales “as soon as possible”.

Lissie Harper said she was delighted and her late husband would be proud.

If passed, the new law would introduce mandatory life sentences for those who kill on-duty emergency workers while committing a crime.

It includes police, prison officers, firefighters, and paramedics and will be applicable unless there are “truly exceptional circumstances”.

Justice Secretary Dominic Raab paid tribute to Lissie Harper’s “remarkable” two-year 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,” he said.

He told BBC Breakfast the new law, if passed, would only apply to crimes and sentences “going forward” and would not be retrospective.

Mr Raab also voiced his concern about the “scale” of attacks on emergency workers, adding that there were around 10,000 convictions for assaults on emergency workers last year.

PC Andrew Harper and his wife
Lissie Harper said she knew “all too well” how emergency services “are put at risk” (Image: PA Media)

 

PC Harper’s killers were cleared of murder and instead sentenced for manslaughter.

The officer died after being dragged along country lanes in Sulhamstead, Berkshire, while answering a late-night burglary call.

He had become entangled in a strap attached to a getaway vehicle as he tried to deal with three quad bike thieves.

His injuries were so catastrophic one of his colleagues could not recognise him.

After his death, Mrs Harper said she had found herself in a “lost and endless world of numb despair”.

Henry Long, the 19-year-old leader of the group, admitted manslaughter and was sentenced to 16 years.

Albert Bowers and Jessie Cole, both 18, were convicted of manslaughter after a trial at the Old Bailey and given 13-year sentences.

Last year, the Court of Appeal rejected a bid by the attorney general to increase their sentences.

Courts currently impose life sentences for murder, with a whole-life – or so-called “life means life” – order being the starting point if a police officer is murdered.

The Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act 2018 brought in a statutory aggravating factor requiring judges to consider increased sentences for offences including manslaughter, grievous bodily harm (GBH) or sexual assault if the victim was an emergency worker.

Long, Bowers, Cole
Henry Long, Albert Bowers and Jessie Cole were cleared of murder but convicted of manslaughter

 

Mrs Harper, from Wallingford in Oxfordshire, said it had been a “long journey” but her late husband “would be proud to see Harper’s Law reach this important milestone”.

“Emergency services workers require extra protection,” she said.

“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.

“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.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel thanked PC Harper’s widow and family for their campaigning and said she was “proud to be able to honour Andrew’s life by introducing Harper’s Law”.

She added that people who sought to harm emergency workers represented the “worst of humanity” and that it was “right that future killers be stripped of the freedom to walk our streets with a life sentence”.

Harper’s Law is expected to make it onto the statute books as an amendment to the existing Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, meaning it could become law by early next year.

Source: bbc.co.uk

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