Thu, 25 Nov 2021 08:00:04 GMT
Although Harper’s law sets out to protect emergency service workers, it will do little to change their lived realities
Harper’s law is named after PC Andrew Harper, killed in pursuit of three quad bike thieves in 2019. It introduces mandatory life sentences for anyone whose crimes result in the death of an emergency service worker, and is expected to take effect at the start of 2022, after a successful campaign by Harper’s widow, Lissie. The pair were newlyweds when the police officer was killed.
Some crimes and their subsequent prosecution demand systemic change; others feel simply unresolved by the legal outcome, and it’s hard in the moment to distinguish between the two. Harper’s killers, Henry Long, then aged 18, and Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers, both 17, were all cleared of murder and convicted of manslaughter. Their sentences weren’t insignificant – Long’s was 16 years; Cole and Bowers were both sentenced to 13 – but their conduct was unrepentant, chilling. It emerged after the trial that the jurors had been given extra security amid fears of potential intimidation by supporters of the defendants. It was understandable to perceive, as Lissie Harper did, that rather than facing justice, Long, Cole and Bowers had slipped through its technicalities and niceties, that their punishment was insignificant compared with the harm they had caused.
Zoe Williams is a Guardian columnist