Matthew Barber, Thames Valley’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) has welcomed the confirmation by the government that it intends to place “Harper’s Law” on the statute book.
The new legislation, named after Thames Valley Police Constable Andrew Harper, who was killed in the line of duty in 2019, would introduce mandatory life for anyone convicted of killing an emergency worker whilst committing a crime.
The announcement today wouldn’t have come about if it hadn’t been for the unflinching campaign of Andrew’s widow, Lissie, who has worked closely with the Police Federation in meeting with the Justice Secretary and Home Secretary to secure this change.
Police and Crime Commissioner, Matthew Barber said: “The triumph of Lissie’s passionate campaign comes out of the tragedy of Andrew’s killing. His death is still keenly felt by Thames Valley Police and this change in legislation is a fitting tribute to him.
“It is right that the Government has backed the campaign for mandatory life sentences for those who unlawfully kill emergency workers in the course of their duty. As Police and Crime Commissioner I am well aware of the risks and dangers that our police officers face every day. The police will run towards danger to protect the public and they deserve our respect and protection in return. I am committed to doing what we can in Thames Valley to ensure the safety of our officers who put themselves at risk on our behalf.”
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.
“I’d like to thank the teams at the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office and Dominic Raab, Priti Patel and Robert Buckland for working with me to achieve this.
“I would also 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 be 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.”
The move follows recent government action to protect police, prison officers, firefighters and paramedics and ensure those who seek to harm them feel the full force of the law. This includes plans to double the maximum penalty for assaulting them to two years’ imprisonment.