Warwickshire Police and Crime Commissioner Philip Seccombe has welcomed the news that the Government intends to place on the statute books legislation to give mandatory life sentences to anyone convicted of killing an emergency services worker while committing a crime.
Known as ‘Harper’s Law’, the legislation is named after PC Andrew Harper, who was killed in active duty in 2019 when he was dragged to his death by a getaway car. 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.
PC Harper’s widow Lissie mounted a national campaign to change the law and this week the Ministry of Justice confirmed that it would aim to pass Harper’s Law in England and Wales “as soon as possible”. Ministers say they are determined to make sure that punishments fit the severity of the crime.
While the law already mandates automatic life sentences for those convicted of murder where the victim is a police officer doing his or her duty, ‘Harper’s Law’ will extend this to those guilty of the lesser offence of manslaughter where the victim is an emergency services worker.
Police and Crime Commissioner Philip Seccombe said: “I’m pleased that the Government has committed to putting ‘Harper’s Law’ on the statute books. Our emergency services work to protect our communities and it is right that the law has protections in place for them. Sadly, we know that assaults against police officers and other emergency service workers has been increasing and I hope that the new legislation acts as an extra deterrent.
“Our police, in particular, run into harm’s way to protect the public and, while it is thankfully incredibly rare that they pay the ultimate sacrifice and lose their lives through the criminal action of others, it is right that the justice system can apply the maximum sentence when such a tragedy occurs.
“I pay tribute to the tenacious way PC Harper’s widow Lissie has campaigned for a change in the law, something I backed publicly last year. I hope the success of her campaign gives some comfort to her and all of the families those killed in the line of duty. As the Home Secretary has 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.
“Together with other measures proposed by the Government to double the maximum penalty for assault of an emergency services worker to two years’ imprisonment, I hope we can start to see a reversal in the disturbing rise in violence against those who work so hard to protect us all.
“I remain committed to doing all I can in Warwickshire to ensuring the safety of the police, fire and ambulance service workers who put themselves at risk on behalf of the public.”