Harper's Law: PC’s widow wins fight for law change over emergency worker deaths

ITV News UK Editor Paul Brand highlights the story of another police officer, Ged Walker, who died in similar circumstances to Andrew Harper. PC Walker was killed on duty while trying to stop a criminal taking a car.

Offenders who kill on-duty emergency service workers while committing a crime will be given mandatory life jail sentences, the government has announced.

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

Harper's Law is expected to become law as early as next year.

In a meeting with justice secretary Dominic Raab on Wednesday, Mrs Harper said she was "really happy" to reach this point, adding it had been a long, hard journey.

“We’re just relieved I think aren’t we, it’s something we knew we would get to this point because we’re just very determined but I think just the amount of support that people are showing as well just proves how much everyone wants it," she said.

“So, as you know, there’s a lot of hard work gone into it behind the scenes as well so just really pleased.”

"It's been a long and hard journey" - Lissie Harper on why Harper's Law is so important to her

Mr Raab thanked Mrs Harper for her campaign, saying she had "a huge amount of support in the country, in the House of Commons, and all because of the tenacity you’ve shown".

"I think you’ve shone a light on something which is really important so I’m just really pleased we can support you and get this done," he said.

Mrs Harper, 30, said she felt a sense of injustice at the sentences handed to the three teenagers responsible for her husband’s death.

PC Andrew Harper died while in the line of duty.

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.

Speaking in 2020, Lissie Harper said Harper's law came from a journey of 'devastation'

Long, the leader of the group, admitted manslaughter, while passengers Cole and Bowers were convicted of manslaughter after a trial at the Old Bailey.

All three were cleared of murder by the jury.

The sentences prompted Mrs Harper to lobby the government to better protect emergency services workers on the front line.

Announcing the intended law change, the 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.

Home Secretary Priti Patel meets Lissie Harper at the Conservative Party Conference this year Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA

“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.”

Home Secretary Priti 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.

Henry Long, Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers were jailed for killing Andrew Harper Credit: Thames Valley Police/PA

“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.”

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.”

Earlier, Mr Raab, told ITV there were 10,000 convictions for on assaults on emergency workers last year.

He said the new law would demonstrate to key workers that "we were on their side".

"A mandatory life sentence reflects the severity of the crime" - justice secretary, Dominic Raab, tells ITV News Harper's Law will show key workers that the government are "on their side"

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

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.