Follow the Home Secretary’s example, Foster urges Alliance Party’s Long
Legislation introducing automatic life sentences for offenders who kill emergency services workers in the line of duty should be extended to Northern Ireland, Arlene Foster has said.
The law, set to be introduced in England and Wales next year, follows a two-year campaign by Lissie Harper, whose police officer husband Andrew was killed while responding to a crime.
The 28-year-old died from his injuries after he became caught in a strap attached to the back of a car and was dragged down a winding country road while investigating a late-night burglary on August 15, 2019.
Mrs Harper (30) previously said she was “outraged” over the sentences handed to the three teenagers responsible for her husband’s death.
Known as ‘Harper’s law’, the legislation is expected to make it onto the statute books in an amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, meaning it is likely to receive Royal Assent and become law early next year.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, GB News presenter and former First Minister Arlene Foster said she was pleased to learn Home Secretary Priti Patel had backed Harper’s law.
“I hope that the Justice Minister [Naomi Long] will follow her lead,” she added.
“I would like to pay tribute to the campaign led by Lissie Harper after the killing of her husband whilst on duty as a police officer. I know that this is something emergency workers would welcome across Northern Ireland.”
Mrs Foster also tweeted her support for a change in the law, tagging Ms Long in her post.
The Department of Justice has been contacted for comment.
Police officers, National Crime Agency officers, prison officers, custody officers, firefighters and paramedics are defined as emergency services workers.
Mrs Harper said: “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.”
Henry Long (19) was sentenced to 16 years in prison and 18-year-olds Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers to 13 years for the manslaughter of Mr Harper, who was a Thames Valley Police traffic officer.
Long, the leader of the group, admitted manslaughter, while passengers Cole and Bowers were convicted of manslaughter after a trial at the Old Bailey.
All three were cleared of murder by the jury.
The sentences prompted Mrs Harper to lobby the Government for better protection of emergency services workers.
The Home Secretary said the new law was an important moment for frontline workers.
Ms Patel added: “PC Andrew Harper’s killing was shocking. It is with thanks to the dedication of Lissie, and his family, that I am proud to be able to honour his life by introducing Harper’s law.”
“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.”
Separately, Justice Secretary Dominic Raab, speaking to the BBC, said the law would not be retrospective, meaning PC Harper’s killers cannot have their sentences extended.
The Court of Appeal previously rejected a bid by the Attorney General to increase their terms in prison.
Mr Raab described PC Harper’s death as “harrowing” and paid tribute to “the amazing job” his widow has done in pressing for change.
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill is currently being considered by the House of Lords.
Peers and MPs will have to agree to the proposed amendment before Harper’s law makes it onto the statute books.