Cop killers must get life, pleads brave PC’s widow

2 September 2020, 21:58 | Updated: 3 September 2020, 07:35

By Megan White

The heartbroken widow of Pc Andrew Harper has taken her campaign for Harper’s Law to senior ministers, calling for those who kill emergency workers to be jailed for life.

Lissie Harper is campaigning for a new law meaning those who kill emergency workers due to a criminal act are jailed for life, after the three teenagers responsible for her 28-year-old husband's death were handed determinate prison sentences for manslaughter.

The courageous 29-year-old – who had been married for just one month when her husband died in the line of duty, said the Home Secretary and Justice Secretary "offered their support and said they're going to back us" during a 45-minute meeting at the Home Office on Wednesday.

Sir Peter Fahy, Former Chief of Greater Manchester Police, said Harper's Law would be a "huge reassurance" to officers in showing the public recognised and support what they do for the community.

Speaking to LBC's Nick Ferrari, Sir Peter added "attacking a police officer is an attack on the rule of law."

Lissie Harper, the widow of Pc Andrew Harper, outside the Home Office in Westminster
Lissie Harper, the widow of Pc Andrew Harper, outside the Home Office in Westminster. Picture: PA

“It’s about the whole of society saying that we recognise that when you attack a police officer you are not attacking an individual, you are attacking a uniform, you are attacking an institution you are attacking our democracy," he continued.

“The same applies to other emergency workers.

“That we ask police officers and other emergency workers to take on specific risks from our behalf to uphold the rule of law and hold up our society.

“It’s really important that families of officers and other emergency workers killed on duty who have had to come to terms with that, that they feel society recognises that.”

Read more: Shocking figures reveal 88% of UK police officers say they've been assaulted on duty

The boost to Lissie's campaign came on the same day shocking statistics revealed 88 per cent of frontline police officers have reported being assaulted whilst on duty, as a new survey reveals an overwhelming amount of them support being given Tasers.

Newly released figures have shown that from 2008 to 2019, 92 police officers lost their lives on duty. Of those, 15 of these were a direct result of a criminal act.

Pc Harper was caught in a tow strap attached to a getaway car and dragged to his death last August
Pc Harper was caught in a tow strap attached to a getaway car and dragged to his death last August. Picture: PA

Mrs Harper wants life sentences to be applied in cases where someone is convicted of killing an emergency services worker, regardless of whether they intended to cause a death.

After Wednesday’s meeting, she said: "They (Ms Patel and Mr Buckland) are really on board with what we're trying to do and creating this positive change, they have offered their support and said they're going to back us.

"Creating new legislation is going to be complicated and I am under no illusions that there is a process - but I am totally determined."

She added: "The Justice Secretary is going to go away and look at it, he seems really interested in our ideas, so I am feeling really encouraged by that next step.

"I was pleasantly surprised at how supportive they are being, this is what we need to see. I'm really impressed that they see this as important as we do."

Pc Harper was caught in a tow strap attached to a getaway car and dragged to his death as he and a Thames Valley Police colleague responded to a late-night burglary in Sulhamstead, Berkshire, in August last year.

Two of Pc Harper's killers - 18-year-olds Albert Bowers and Jessie Cole - have lodged applications with the Court of Appeal seeking permission to challenge their manslaughter convictions and their 13-year prison sentences.

They were jailed alongside getaway driver Henry Long, 19, who was handed a 16-year sentence, also for manslaughter.

Mrs Harper said Government civil servants will now work with the Harper's Law team on the details of the plans with a view to trying to achieve their goal.

It came as a petition backing the "vital and urgent" law change reached more than 650,000 signatures.

(left to right), Henry Long, 19, Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers, both 18
(left to right), Henry Long, 19, Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers, both 18. Picture: PA

In a joint statement, Ms Patel and Mr Buckland said: "Pc Andrew Harper was a hero whose loss has been felt across the country - but mostly by his wife, family and friends.

"We were pleased to sit down with Lissie today. She is extraordinarily courageous and her dedication to honouring her husband's memory is commendable."

Official figures from the National Police Chief's Council show there were 30,885 assaults recorded from 2018-2019 alone, although the true figure is thought to be around 45,000.

In the past 12 months, 39 per cent say they have been assaulted, with 50 per cent of custody officers and 46 per cent of response officers saying they have suffered violence at least three times.

Police chiefs are now reviewing the equipment and safety training given after a survey of 40,000 officers found a worrying rise in assaults and violence against them.

The couple celebrating their wedding at Ardington House in Oxfordshire
The couple celebrating their wedding at Ardington House in Oxfordshire. Picture: Mark Lord / PA Media

When asked, 85 per cent of officers said they believed they should be deployed with a Taser.

A lower proportion (61 per cent) were of the opinion that all frontline police officers needed a Taser.

In 2018/19, there were 328 assaults per 1,000 constables – roughly one offence for every three constables – up from 284 per 1,000 in the previous year.

Over the same period, assaults on officers that did not result in injury increased by 13 per cent on the previous year to 20,476.

Assaults with injury increased by 26 per cent to 10,409.

However, the College of Policing estimates that when unrecorded assaults are taken into account, the total number is closer to 45,000.

The College of Policing has estimated that as a result of assaults on officer, 71,308 days were taken as sick leave, at a total estimated salary cost of £4.7 million.

Attorney General Suella Braverman has referred the jail terms of the three teens to the Court of Appeal to consider whether the sentences were unduly lenient.

Mrs Harper, who was supported at Wednesday's meeting by the Police Federation, said: "I wanted to sit down with the Home Secretary and describe to her how it feels to look the people responsible for my husband's death in the eye, knowing that they show no remorse for their actions and knowing that they will be released into the world once more to return to their lives of crime.

"I told Ms Patel and Mr Buckland in no uncertain terms my widely held view that the justice system is broken, and that we need Harper's Law to help fix it.

"The least we can expect from our justice system is that it ensures criminals who kill those emergency services workers protecting us are given appropriate and substantial prison sentences."

She added: "Being here at the Home Office and meeting with key members of the Government is a great accomplishment for the campaign. But this is not the end of the road."