Killers of emergency workers face full-life sentences as Harper’s Law is approved

Nov 24, 2021 News

Killers of emergency workers face full-life sentences as Harper’s Law is approved

PC Harper’s killers, Henry Long, 19, and 18 year-olds Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers, were convicted of manslaughter, but acquitted of murder despite dragging the police officer for more than a mile behind their getaway car as they fled the scene of an attempted quad bike theft.

The 28-year-old officer, who had been chasing the teenagers, became tangled in a tow rope behind their car and suffered catastrophic fatal injuries as the gang fled the scene.

Long was sentenced to 16 years while Cole and Bowers were given 13 years each in a case that the trial judge described “as close to murder as you could get”.

An appeal by the Attorney General against the “unduly lenient” sentences was subsequently dismissed by the Court of Appeal, prompting Mrs Harper to launch her campaign to change the law on sentencing around those who kill emergency workers.

Under Harper’s Law, Long, Cole and Bowers would have received a mandatory life sentence on conviction of manslaughter and would have had to appear before a parole board before they would become eligible for release.

The change in the law has been backed by Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, and Dominic Raab, the Justice Secretary.

Mr Raab paid tribute to Mrs 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,” he said.

Ms Patel said it was “right that future killers be stripped of the freedom to walk our streets with a life sentence.”

“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,” she said.

MoJ sources said there would be scope for judicial discretion in “exceptional” circumstances where, for example, the original crime that led to the death of an emergency worker might not justify a life sentence.

A drunken or careless driver who killed a police officer could face prosecution for the new offence but an MoJ source said: “There is judicial discretion in there. It would be wrong to say they would absolutely get a life sentence.

“The judge would look at the case. If it was careless driving and it was low culpability, the judge might think a mandatory life sentence is too harsh.”

The new offence could be introduced as part of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill and could be on the statute book early next year. Anyone who murders a police officer will still face a whole-life order.

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