A new law that will bring in mandatory life sentence for offenders who kill emergency services workers while committing crimes will not be retrospective, Dominic Raab has said.
The justice secretary’s statement means that the killers of PC Andrew Harper, who died in the line of duty, will not have their sentences extended.
Lissie Harper, PC Harper’s widow, has led a two-year campaign to change the law after he was killed while answering a late-night burglary call.
The court of appeal previously rejected a bid by the attorney general to increase the sentences handed down to PC Harper’s killers.
The justice secretary told BBC Breakfast: “That is one of the things that made us look very carefully and focus on changing the law, but of course it only applies to crimes and sentences going forward; I think that’s the right thing to do.”
The so-called Harper’s Law is expected to make it on to the statute books through an amendment to the existing police, crime, sentencing and courts bill, meaning it is likely to get royal assent and become law early next year.
Harper, 28, died from his injuries when he was caught in a strap attached to the back of a car and dragged down a winding country road as the trio fled the scene of a quad bike theft in Sulhamstead, Berkshire, on the night of 15 August 2019.
Henry Long, 19, was sentenced to 16 years and 18-year-olds Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers were handed 13 years in custody over the manslaughter of the 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 Harper to lobby the government to better protect emergency services workers on the front line.
The police, crime, sentencing and courts bill is currently being considered in the House of Lords and both peers and MPs would have to agree to the proposed amendment to introduce the new law as part of the legislation.
Lissie Harper said: “Emergency services workers require extra protection. I know all too well how they are put at risk and into the depths of danger on a regular basis on behalf of society.
“That protection is what Harper’s Law will provide and I am delighted that it will soon become a reality.”
Police officers, National Crime Agency officers, prison officers, custody officers, firefighters and paramedics are all defined as emergency services workers.
The courts must already impose life sentences for murder, although they can also be applied to other violent offences. A life sentence lasts for the rest of a person’s life.
It means they can be sent back to prison if they commit another offence upon release from custody after serving at least the minimum sentence imposed by the courts.