Raab: Harper’s Law isn’t blurring lines between murder and manslaughter

24 November 2021, 08:11 | Updated: 24 November 2021, 09:28

By Asher McShane

Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab has said that Harper's law, which will see offenders who kill on-duty emergency services workers given mandatory life terms, isn't blurring the line between murder and manslaughter.

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Speaking to Nick Ferrari at breakfast on LBC Mr Raab said that in "truly exceptional circumstances" there is discretion for a judge to not impose a life sentence in manslaughter cases involving an emergency services worker.

He added: "We're not talking about freak accidents."

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

Nick asked whether “there could be some instances where someone is given a life term that is unjust.”

Mr Raab said: “I think it’s the right thing to do. I don’t think it’s blurring anything.

Dominic Raab defended Harper's Law
Dominic Raab defended Harper's Law. Picture: LBC

“If you kill an emergency worker in the course of their duties, while you’re engaged in criminal activity, let’s remember, Pc Andrew Harper was apprehending three individuals suspected of burglary, I think it should attract a mandatory life sentence.”

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

“There is some discretion for a judge in truly exceptional circumstances, but of course they would have to be truly exceptional. We do not want the thing being undermined by the back door.

“It reflects the seriousness of the offending.”

The law change marks the end of a two-year campaign by Lissie Harper after her husband, police officer Andrew Harper, was killed in the line of duty while answering a late-night burglary call.

Mrs Harper, 30, previously said she was "outraged" over the sentences handed to the three teenagers responsible for her husband's death.

The so-called Harper's Law is expected to make it on to the statute books via an amendment to the existing Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, meaning it is likely to get Royal Assent and become law early next year.

Mrs Harper 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."

Pc Harper, 28, died from his injuries when he was caught in a strap attached to the back of a car and dragged down a winding country road as the trio fled the scene of a quad bike theft in Sulhamstead, Berkshire, on the night of August 15 2019.

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

The courts must already impose life sentences for murder, although they can also be applied to other violent offences.

A life sentence lasts for the rest of a person's life.

It means they can be sent back to prison if they commit another offence upon release from custody after serving at least the minimum sentence imposed by the courts.

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