Updated: Feb 15
On August 15th 2019 a police constable was killed when responding to a call for a stolen Quad bike in Berkshire. The news was dominated by this tragic story, including statements from his wife, after they were married for just a few weeks. Over two years later the name PC Harper is back in the news along with the headline “Harper’s Law”.
Harper’s Law dictates that there will be “mandatory life sentences” for those who kill emergency service workers during their course of duty. This law, as petitioned by Mrs Lissie Harper, is in response to PC Harper’s killer receiving just 19 years - including 3 years of parole. The law only dictates immediate life sentences to the killers of emergency service workers and therefore begs the question of the value of life. Does Harper’s law imply that the life of the emergency service is of greater importance than the rest of us? It is argued by critics that the law also does not focus on justice or deterrence but instead the law is one of vengeance. The law is also said to blur the line between manslaughter - killing without the predetermined intent to kill - and murder. This would then create difficulties in exceptional circumstances where an innocent accident could result in a life sentence. Therefore is the law too focused on vengeance that it misses or ignores the extra value it gives to certain lives and the blurred lines it creates?
Ultimately I would argue that the point of the emergency service workers is that they put their lives more readily at risk to protect ours and therefore we should protect theirs too. Although the law has flaws I hope that the aim to deter will be successful to stop and prevent any similar tragedies and therefore the positives will hopefully outweigh the negatives.