The widow of Police Constable Andrew Harper Lissie Harper has launched a petition to back her personal campaign which is calling for those convicted of killing a police officer, firefighter, nurse, doctor, prison officer or paramedic to face life in prison.
What is Harper’s Law?
Harper’s law is the creation of a new law which would mean if the law is changed anyone found guilty of killing an emergency worker would be jailed for life.
It is believed that the law will only focus on emergency service workers who are killed on duty.
Lissie Harper the spearhead behind the campaign says “We ask police officers, firefighters, nurses, doctors, prison officers and paramedics to go out there and keep the Queen’s peace on behalf of society. We ask them to save people’s lives. We ask them to protect us.
“So society must offer the greatest protection for those dedicated public servants who are killed protecting it. That is what Harper’s Law would provide. An appropriate deterrent and suitable punishment.
“The law must be changed. We want to work with the Government, politicians of all parties and the fantastic British public on this.”
Who is PC Andrew Harper?
PC Andrew Harper was a Police Constable with Thames Valley Police. He was killed in horrific circumstances on 15th August.
PC Harper was dragged behind a car for more than an mile along country lanes after he and his colleague has responded to reports of a quad bike being stolen.
PC Harper had chased a suspect and unwittingly stepped with both feet unto a loop of tow rope which was trailing behind a vehicle. The tow rope had been there to tow the stolen quad bike which was unhitched from the back of the car.
PC Harper became lassoed to the back of the car and was dragged for more than a mile, The killers had not intentionally killed Harper but when he became lassoed they did not stop.
They were convicted of Manslaughter meaning they had caused Harper’s death but had not intended to cause his death or cause him harm.
Sadly PC Harper did not survive the horrific ordeal and tragically died.
It has been a common mistake of the public to believe that Harper’s Law would mean if these three men had been sentenced they would have been sentenced to life.
Is Harper’s Law Wrong?
Lissie Harper is campaigning to make a new law to make the killing of any emergency service worker an offence, We know that offence already exists which is Manslaughter or Murder.
But despite those responsible for Harper’s death being found guilty of Manslaughter the law would not apply to Manslaughter. It would only apply to those found guilty of killing an emergency service worker.
But Lissie has made it clear that she would not like this law to apply to her case because she is not looking to change the laws for Manslaughter.
It’s a misconception that the law would be applied to Manslaughter but murder already carries a life sentence? So who does it apply too. Before we proceed we should be very careful about changing laws some would argue.
Murder already attracts an automatic life sentence, and where the victim is a police officer doing his duty the statutory ‘starting point’ is life without parole.
The object of Harper’s Law is to ensure that those guilty of the lesser offence of manslaughter also receive a life sentence, where the victim is an emergency worker.
Life imprisonment is already a possible sentence for manslaughter within the tragic case PC Harper’s defendants were clearly told by the judge, had Long been older, he would have passed one.
“Harper’s Law is not asking for whole life orders, nor has it ever mentioned a life sentence for manslaughter. Any suggestion that this is what we are asking for is misleading, deliberately harmful and incorrect. I have no plans to strive for any legislation of this sort.” – Lissie Harper
Some believe the law is wrong and goes too far because it challenges the basic principles of law.
While others would disagree and say emergency service workers should have special laws and powers to protect them.
“The police are the public; The public are the police.” – Sir Robber Peel – Father of modern policing.
What is manslaughter?
Manslaughter is when a person has caused the death of another person but they do not have the intention to kill or cause grievous bodily harm. This compared to murder is where a person of sound mind unlawfully kills another person and they have the intention to kill or cause grievous bodily harm.
But making an unintended death of an emergency worker could be seen as a danger as the person who killed the emergency worker did so without the intention and as a result could be imprisonned for life.
Lissie has made it clear that Harper’s Law would not apply to Manslaughter.
Could Harper’s Law be Dangerous?
Manslaughter is when you are guilty of killing someone without intention and by accident. Meaning it was never intended but with Harper’s Law, that person could be jailed for life having never intended to kill an emergency service worker but if they are found guilty of killing an emergency service worker.
For example, if there was a road traffic accident involving a member of the public and an on-duty emergency service worker the member of the public could face life in jail. This could be deemed as dangerous within the legal system.
Another example would be if a building is on fire and someone is accused of setting fire to the building which could be simply by neglecting to turn off a chip pan or neglecting to maintain a fridge and it sets on fire and the fire service attends and one sadly and tragically dies the person who left a chip pan turned on or failed to maintain a fridge could be jailed for life.
Where the victim is an emergency worker, Harper’s law here is where it becomes difficult.
This is because it would render the distinction between murder and manslaughter largely academic. Both would attract a mandatory life sentence.
The culpability in offences of manslaughter is wildly variable this is because someone who chucks a single punch resulting in an unexpected death can be manslaughter whereas on the other-scale a murder can be reduced to manslaughter by reasons of diminished responsibility in other words they are suffering mental health insanity.
Should the fact a person killed an emergency service worker be any different to anyone else?
It has been augured that killing a member of the emergency services should make no difference to how we think about and apply justice.
What happens if it is the other way around an emergency service worker accidentally kills a member of the public?
“Essentially, this new law would punish people for unintended actions, making the conscious murder of an individual no different from the accidental outcome of a criminal act, like setting a building on fire.” – Stuart Waiton – The Herald Digital
Stuart Waiton a journalist at The Herald Digital makes it clear he does not support the law based on his views that it is too much of a breach of basic principles of law that would take the victim justice system within the UK to a new low.
But goes on to argue that the “support for the law demonstrates the dangerous trajectory we are on, where emotion and respect for feelings are becoming elevated, by the raputic state, above the thought of reason we should expect from a civilised society”.
A Life for a Life?
Many would argue that Harper’s Law is a good start if you are found guilty of murder of a emergency service worker while they are on duty.
But is only a good start because many would argue that someone’s title should not project them in law.
Everyone should be entitled to the same protection meaning if someone is murder they are giving a life sentence for a life.
While others would argue that Emergency service workers do not leave home and go to work to die, they serve the crown and should simply be protected by the crown.
Henry Long who was sentenced to Manslaughter appeals sentence.
One of the men who was sentenced to Manslaughter following the death of PC Harper has already been lodged an appeal to his long sentence.
Long who is aged 19 was sentenced to 16-year in prison and will now challenge this sentence within the Court of Appeal because he deems the sentence he has been handed is too long.
Long was driving the vehicle has pleaded guilty to manslaughter but was acquitted of murder at a trial at the Old Bailey along with fellow passengers Albert Bowers and Jessie Cole.
Albert Bowers and Jessie Cole, both 18, have already lodged an appeal to the sentences they were handed after being jailed for 13 years.
Regardless of the Law
This is an horrific incident and we do feel for the family of friends of PC Harper especially Lissie Harper who is campaigning to make a huge difference.
As a Media group, we donated thousands of pounds along with our readers to support Lissie Harper and as a media group, we always have to write a balanced write up which shows both sides of the coin.
That is because we pride ourselves in writing balanced non-sensationalised policing news.