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Harper’s Law: new criminal legislation to prevent harm to emergency workers

New legislation will introduce mandatory life sentences for anyone convicted of killing an emergency worker whilst committing a crime.

The law has been named after PC Andrew Harper, who was killed in the line of duty in 2019.

The people responsible for his death – Henry Long, Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers – each received custodial sentences of between 13 and 19 years for manslaughter.

But campaigners – including Mr Harper’s family and the Police Federation – argued that the punishments did not fit the severity of the crime.

After several meetings with the Justice Secretary and Home Secretary, the Government has now agreed to impose harsher sentences for those convicted of similar crimes.

The move will extend mandatory life sentences to anyone who commits the manslaughter of an emergency worker – such as a police officer, firefighter, paramedic, or any other professional defined in the Emergency Workers (Offences) Act 2018 and section 68 of the Sentencing Code – on duty while carrying out another crime, unless there are “truly exceptional circumstances”.

The new legislation brings sentencing into line with murder, which already carries a whole-life order if the victim is a police officer.

Related laws announced earlier this year will also see the maximum penalty for assaulting an emergency worker doubled from one to two years’ imprisonment.

Commenting on the new legislation, Deputy Prime Minister, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Dominic 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.

“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, added: “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.”

The Government said it is “determined” to introduce the law as soon as possible.

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