'Andrew would be proud': Harper's Law will see criminals who kill police jailed for life

24 November 2021, 00:01 | Updated: 24 November 2021, 07:50

Lissie Harper has campaigned for two years after Andrew was killed in the line of duty
Lissie Harper has campaigned for two years after Andrew was killed in the line of duty. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Crooks who kill a police officer or other emergency services workers while committing a crime will get mandatory life behind bars.

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"Harper's Law" will be brought in after a two-year campaign by Lissie Harper, whose police husband Andrew was killed while responding to a burglary call in a tragedy that shocked the nation.

She was outraged at the sentences given to three teenagers responsible for his death in 2019.

Mrs Harper, 30, said: "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."

Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said the Government is "on the side of victims and their families" and that it has the back of emergency workers.

Read more: Harper's Law: 'An attack on a police officer is an attack on our democracy'

Read more: Father of murdered son brands 'Harper's law' campaign 'discriminatory'

And Home Secretary Priti Patel said it would strip "the very worst of humanity" of their freedom to roam Britain's streets.

PC Harper was killed after he got caught in a strap attached to the back of a car and was dragged along a country road while three teenagers fled the scene of a quad bike theft.

The 28-year-old Thames Valley Police officer was dragged for more than a mile during the tragedy in Sulhamstead, Berkshire, in August 2019.

Henry Long, 19, was given 16 years in prison while Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers, both 18, got 13 years for his manslaughter. All three were cleared of his murder.

Ms Harper has embarked on a two-year campaign to protect emergency services staff.

It is expected that "Harper's Law" will be implemented through an amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill - which has attracted controversy over its impact on protests - meaning it could become law early in 2022.

Mrs 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."

'We're on the side of victims'

Mr 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."

Ms 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."

PC Harper's family 'won't be satisfied' by new law

Police officers, prison officers, custody officers, National Crime Agency officers, firefighters and paramedics are defined as emergency services workers.

While a life sentence lasts for as long as a criminal lives, they can be released from custody after serving their minimum term - though they will be sent back behind bars if they commit another crime.

Stephen Roberts, former deputy assistant commissioner with the Metropolitan Police, warned LBC's Tom Swarbrick that "life does not mean life" because judges still have to formulate a minimum term, after which a prisoner can be let out.

"I think it's a populist measure, it is seen to be, and will rightly be seen to be, a government response to the awful circumstances of Andrew Harper's death," he said, warning that PC Harper's loved ones will not be satisfied with the law in practice.