Killing a police officer or 999 worker is to be punished with a mandatory life sentence, it was announced last night.
The legal change is a major victory for the widow of hero PC Andrew Harper, who was killed responding to a burglary.
Lissie Harper, 30, was left outraged after the trio who caused his death escaped with sentences as low as 13 years – and smirked in the dock.
‘Harper’s Law’ will apply to any killer of an on-duty police officer, fireman, paramedic or prison officer – and also to a criminal who kills medics providing NHS care.
The change is expected to make it on to the statute book early next year via an amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.
Lissie Harper, 30, was left outraged after the trio who caused her husband’s death escaped with sentences as low as 13 years – and smirked in the dock
Justice Secretary Dominic Raab today pays tribute to Mrs Harper, saying she suffered a ‘burning sense of injustice’. Writing exclusively for the Daily Mail, he adds: ‘We all owe a debt of gratitude to our dedicated emergency workers. I want them to know we’ve got their backs.
‘I pay tribute to Lissie’s determination to change the law, so that the families of those killed while simply doing their jobs get the justice they deserve.’
He also praises Mrs Harper for her ‘remarkable’ 15-month campaign backed by the rank-and-file Police Federation.
How police killers have managed to dodge justice
Members of the armed gang that killed PC Sharon Beshenivsky are among those that have previously dodged a life sentence for their crimes.
The mother of three was shot dead and her colleague Teresa Milburn seriously injured trying to stop the gang who fled a travel agency in Bradford with £5,000 in November 2005.
Four of the group, who were armed with a machine gun and a pistol, received life sentences. But Hassan Razzaq was sentenced to 20 years for manslaughter while Raza Ul-Haq Aslam received eight years for robbery charges. The alleged mastermind of the group Piran Ditta Khan has never been tried in the UK but was finally arrested in Pakistan in January last year.
Thomas Whaley was sentenced to eight years for the manslaughter of PC Alison Armitage in 2001 but was freed after serving just five. The police officer was killed when Whaley tried to drive away in a stolen car and ran her over, causing multiple horrific injuries.
He claimed he had not seen the 29-year-old officer despite driving repeatedly over her body to avoid being caught in Hollinwood, Greater Manchester. PC Gareth Browning had also been trying to stop a stolen vehicle when he was driven into by Luke Haywood who was on day release from prison in 2013.
The officer never recovered from his injuries, which left him permanently disabled, and died in April 2017 aged 36.
Haywood was originally jailed for nine years in 2014 for dangerous driving and grievous bodily harm and was sentenced to a further three years and four months in prison after being charged with manslaughter in 2017.
She said last night: ‘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.
‘Emergency service 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.
‘I would like to thank my incredible Harper’s Law team as well as the public for their unstinting support for such an important campaign – those who believed that the right thing is worth doing despite the hurdles and challenges that we needed to overcome.
‘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.’
On August 15, 2019, four hours after the end of his shift, PC Harper, 28, responded to reports of a stolen quad bike at Stanford Dingley in Berkshire.
As he approached the suspects, his legs became entangled in a strap attached to a Seat Toledo driven by Henry Long, then 19. Long accelerated away.
PC Harper’s colleague, PC Andrew Shaw, later described how the officer fell and disappeared from view, like a waterskier with his ‘feet whipped forward’. The newlywed was dragged for more than a mile for 91 seconds, at an average speed of 43mph, before his body was dislodged.
After a trial, Long was sentenced to 16 years. He could be freed after serving two-thirds of the sentence – or ten years and eight months.
Passengers Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers, both then 18, will be entitled to automatic release after serving eight years and eight months of their 13-year terms.
The Court of Appeal rejected a bid by the attorney general to increase their sentences, and the three have received more than £780,000 in legal aid. Long told police he ‘didn’t give a f*** about any of this’ when he was initially charged.
Mr and Mrs Harper had married only a month before his death and were yet to go on their honeymoon.
Mrs Harper has previously condemned the sentences as ‘inadequate’ punishment for the ‘brutal and criminal way’ in which her husband was killed.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said: ‘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.’
The new penalty will be introduced as soon as possible, a Ministry of Justice spokesman said. Judges will be allowed to waive the minimum life term in only the most exceptional cases.
PC Andrew Harper with his wife Lissie. Justice Secretary Dominic Raab today pays tribute to Mrs Harper, saying she suffered a ‘burning sense of injustice’
Full details of the new sentence have yet to be published. But officials said that for it to apply, an emergency worker would not have to be directly responding to a crime. And the victim would not need to be aware, before their death, that an offence was taking place.
Anyone convicted of murder already faces a mandatory life sentence and, since 2015, a criminal convicted of murdering a police officer receives a ‘whole life’ tariff, meaning they will die behind bars.
However, offenders who escape murder charges but are convicted of a lesser manslaughter offence often receive lower punishments, and these will be the main focus of the legal change.
I want 999 staff to know we’ve got their backs
BY JUSTICE SECRETARY DOMINIC RAAB FOR THE DAILY MAIL
PC Andrew Harper was just 28 years old and had been married for less than a month when he was killed in the line of duty as a Thames Valley Police officer in August 2019.
As he tried to arrest suspects of a burglary, he got caught in a strap hanging from their car.
At speeds of more than 40mph, they dragged PC Harper for a mile.
He was pronounced dead at the scene, leaving heartbroken his wife Lissie, family and many friends.
Three teenage males were convicted of manslaughter after the killing. Henry Long received a sentence of 16 years for taking PC Harper’s life, while Albert Bowers and Jessie Cole received 13 years each.
Lissie Harper was left with a burning sense of injustice at the length of the sentences given to her husband’s killers. Convinced that their punishment did not fit the severity of the crime, she has spent the 16 months since that trial campaigning for changes in the law. She doesn’t want any other family to go through what she and Andrew’s wider family have suffered.
But as harrowing as PC Harper’s case is, there is a broader principle at stake. We all owe a debt of gratitude to our emergency workers, especially after the pandemic of the past two years.
Mr Raab said: ‘As harrowing as PC Harper’s case is, there is a broader principle at stake. We all owe a debt of gratitude to our emergency workers, especially after the pandemic of the past two years’
Despite the risks, they continue putting themselves on the line to keep us safe. And yet last year, there were more than 10,000 convictions for assaults on emergency workers doing their jobs, including police officers, paramedics and firefighters. I want them to know we’ve got their backs. When I was a junior justice minister in 2018, I was involved in doubling the maximum penalty for assaults on emergency workers from six months to a year. Now we’re passing a new law through parliament to double this again – to two years.
But we still need to go further.
So I am introducing ‘Harper’s Law’ – which will require mandatory life sentences for anyone who unlawfully kills an emergency worker in the course of their duties, unless there are truly exceptional circumstances.
Had this law existed when PC Harper died, his killers would have received life sentences.
I pay tribute to Lissie’s determination to change the law, so that the families of those killed while simply doing their jobs get the justice they deserve.
This Government is recruiting the police, increasing the time the most serious offenders spend behind bars and building the prisons to take the most robust approach to crime.
We are standing up for victims, the police and all dedicated frontline emergency workers.
That’s how we can build back a stronger, safer and a fairer country.