25 November 2021
A legislative change that will see those who kill emergency service workers handed a mandatory life sentence has been welcomed by the chair of Derbyshire Police Federation.
Tony Wetton was commenting after the Ministry of Justice pledged to change the law as soon as possible to give emergency workers greater protection from violent criminals.
The announcement follows a campaign by Lissie Harper, widow of PC Andrew Harper of Thames Valley Police who was killed in August 2019.
Tony said: “The death of PC Andrew Harper shocked the public and everyone in policing. The Government plan to change the law in his name is very much welcomed.
“Police officers and other emergency service workers often put their lives on the line to protect the communities they serve, it is right and proper that in turn the Government protects them by putting a very strong deterrent in place. The number and severity of assaults on officers has to be addressed, addressed effectively and addressed quickly.”
John Apter, national chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales which supported Lissie’s campaign, said PC Harper’s “shocking and needless death” will live long in the memories of colleagues and police officers around the country.
He added: “I hope the introduction of a mandatory life sentence for anyone convicted of killing a police officer, or emergency worker, will act as a strong deterrent and stop needless violence against my colleagues.”
Henry Long, Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers each received custodial sentences of between 13 and 19 years in prison for PC Harper’s manslaughter. An appeal by the Attorney General to increase their time behind bars was rejected.
Ministers are determined to make sure that punishments fit the severity of the crime.
The move extends 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. Courts must already impose life sentences for murder, with a whole-life order being the starting point if the victim is a police officer.
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.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel said PC Harper’s killing was shocking and praised the dedication of Lissie and his family, adding she was proud to able to honour his life by introducing Harper’s Law.
She 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.”