The government is to introduce mandatory life sentences for offenders whose crimes lead to the death of an emergency service worker in the line of duty.
It comes under a new law brought about after the death of PC Andrew Harper.
The new legislation – which is to be named ‘Harper’s Law’ – will be introduced as soon as possible, and follows the tireless campaigning of PC Andrew Harper’s family, and his widow Lissie Harper, who were prompted to take action after the 28-year-old was killed while responding to a call about a stolen quad bike in Berkshire on 15 August 2019.
Lissie had previously said she was “outraged” by the length of sentences handed to the three teenagers responsible for his death.
PC Harper – who worked as a traffic officer in the Thames Valley Police – was caught up in a rope by 19-year-old Henry Long and his two 18-year-old passengers Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers had been using to tow the bike and dragged to his death when they tried to drive away from police.
Long was jailed for 16 years, and Cole and Bowers were each jailed for 13 years in July for the manslaughter of PC Harper.
All three were cleared of PC Harper’s murder by the same jury – which deliberated for more than 12 hours – but an appeal by the Attorney General to increase their time behind bars was rejected.
‘Harper’s Law’ will make it on to the statute books through an amendment to the existing police, crime, sentencing and courts bill, and will extend 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.
The legislation is likely to take effect early next year.
Announcing the intended law change, the Justice Secretary, 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.”
Lissie 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.”
The courts already have to impose life sentences for murder, although such sentences can also be applied to other violent offences.
The time spent in prison under a mandatory life sentence is decided by a judge.
Featured Image – Facebook / Thames Valley Police