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World News

'Blue-light services grateful' for Lissie Harper's 'graceful' fight to change law says police chaplain

by Donna Birrell

The government says it will bring in mandatory life sentences for anyone who kills a member of the emergency services.

The so-called Harper's Law follows a campaign by the widow of PC Andrew Harper, who was killed at the scene of a burglary in Berkshire in August 2019. 

Three teenagers were jailed for his manslaughter. 

Lissie Harper launched her campaign last year - warning many families were seeing loved ones putting their lives on the line every day. 

The Ministry of Justice said the law, which will apply to all emergency service workers, including prison officers and firefighters will be implemented as soon as possible.

Sarah Jeffrey is co-lead Chaplain for Devon and Cornwall Police. She's been speaking to Premier about what Harper's Law will mean for police officers and their families.

"It's probably not an understatement to say that I was delighted to see this. I don't know, Lissie Harper personally, I've not had the privilege to have met her yet.  But I was following the developments over the last two years trying to get this law passed and her passion, her commitment and just her grace in how she handled this - thinking of others before herself. That situation was tragic, but she was looking forward and she was looking at how this could support other police officers and other emergency services personnel. So I think everybody in the blue light services is incredibly grateful to her."

There were around 10,000 convictions for assaults on emergency workers last year and Sarah Jeffrey says the police have to face a lot of abuse.  

"I don't think we can underestimate not just the physical danger that police officers put themselves in, but the emotional toll that it takes on them. I think what the law will mean for them is the fact that they are valued. Although we would like to think this law would stop people from even considering doing what happened to PC Harper, sadly, it probably won't. But what it will do is it will value all emergency service personnel and make hopefully some kind of justice available for their families - if something like this were to happen again.

"Sadly, assaults, both verbal and physical have almost become an accepted part of the job. It should never be acceptable, but sadly it's so frequent, that it's almost becoming part of the job. I think a law like this is highlighting the fact that no, it's not okay and it should never be part of the job."

"Officers see some of the worst parts of humankind, so please pray not only for their safe protection, but also pray that the impact of the work they do doesn't stay with them year after year, that it doesn't get taken home. Because we know that happens. Please pray that the impact is dramatically reduced on them when they go home. That's something certainly that I pray for frequently."

PC Harper who was 28, had been married for just four weeks when he was killed after being dragged along by a getaway car fleeing a burglary. 

Henry Long, the 19-year-old leader of the group, admitted manslaughter and was sentenced to 16 years.
Albert Bowers and Jessie Cole, both 18, were convicted of manslaughter after a trial at the Old Bailey and given 13-year sentences.

PC Harper's widow, Lissie, said she was delighted about the new law and that her late husband would be proud.  

 

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