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PC Harper's widow 'encouraged' law will change after meeting Patel

Lissie Harper said she was “encouraged” by her meeting with the Home Secretary and Justice Secretary in Westminster.

The widow of PC Andrew Harper has put her case for the laws to be toughed for those who kill police officers to the government and said she was encouraged by their response.

Lissie Harper told Home Secretary Priti Patel and Justice Secretary Robert Buckland that her campaign to have a mandatory life sentence introduced for anyone who kills an emergency services worker had gained overwhelming public support.

An online petition calling for Harper’s Law has attracted 650,000 signatures.

During her 45-minute meeting she recounted her experience of attending the trail of the three teenagers who were convicted of manslaughter for killing her husband a year ago. All three have now lodged appeals against their sentences for being too severe.

The Attorney General has sent an appeal to the High Court arguing that the sentences were not severe enough.

At her meeting, which was also attended by Sgt Andy Fiddler of Thames Valley Police Federation, she explained how a new offence could work.

Mrs Harper said: “Harper's Law will mean a person found guilty of killing a police officer, firefighter, nurse, doctor, paramedic or prison officer as a direct result of a crime they have committed then they would be jailed for life.

“This means that a life sentence would be imposed, asking for a minimum term in prison. We are delighted to have started this conversation with the policy makers in the Government and we look forward to continuing that.”

Members of the Home Office’s legislation team are set to be tasked with drawing up draft legislation ready for Parliamentary scrutiny. The joint meeting with the Justice Secretary is significant as agreement is needed over which department would lead the Bill through Parliament. There were media claims last year that the two departments had been at odds over demands from Ms Patel to increase the jail tariff for people found guilty of assaulting emergency workers to two years.

The campaign is being directly supported by the Police Federation.

Speaking after the meeting, Lissie Harper said: “I wanted to sit down with the Home Secretary and describe to her how it feels to look the people responsible for my husband’s death in the eye, knowing that they show no remorse for their actions and knowing that they will be released into the world once more to return to their lives of crime.

“I told Ms Patel and Mr Buckland in no uncertain terms my widely held view that the justice system is broken. And that we need Harper’s Law to help fix it. The least we can expect from our justice system is that it ensures criminals who kill those emergency services workers protecting us are given appropriate and substantial prison sentences,” she said.

The meeting was scheduled to coincide with the National Police Chiefs’ Council review into officer safety which made 28 recommendations for change – including calls to toughen the law.

Mrs Harper said she believed the government would act: “They spoke and listened well today and I am pleased to say they promised to work with us and support us in achieving our goal of providing justice to families of emergency services workers and stiffer and more appropriate sentences for those who take their lives. We know this won’t happen overnight and now wait for the next steps.”

The Home Secretary has yet to explain how the government will toughen the law but earlier this week she told the Police Federation that she is committed to ensuring sentences are strengthened for attacks on the police.

She said: “I believe there should be strong sentences, firm sentences, and just sentences for those individuals who know what they are doing. They are the perpetrators of violence, crime, disorder, and thuggery against people who are upholding the law, protecting us on the frontline, and serving their community. It is thoroughly unacceptable.

“We are dealing with this through various means of legislation and have launched a consultation on the question of maximum sentences. We must send a powerful message to the perpetrators and also to our courts, that as a society we’re not going to tolerate this.”

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