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Cowards who attack police have no place on our streets, vows Priti Patel in a Mail column

Priti Patel has voiced her fury over the ‘cruel’ killing of PC Andrew Harper and vowed that criminals who attack police officers have ‘no place on our streets’.

Writing exclusively for the Daily Mail, the Home Secretary expresses her devastation at the death of 28-year-old constable after he was dragged along behind a getaway car for more than a mile.

She insists: ‘Let me be clear – those cowards who attack our police and emergency services have no place on our streets.’

Her declaration comes amid widespread calls for action in the wake of a chaotic trial which saw three teenagers acquitted of the policeman’s murder.

His widow Lissie has called for a retrial after blasting the court case as ‘atrociously below board’, and suggesting jurors may have been intimidated by the defendants’ families.

In her article for today’s Mail, the Home Secretary says: ‘PC Andrew Harper was a hero. He epitomised the bravery and sacrifice that make our police the best in the world.

‘To see a brave officer, newly married with his whole life ahead of him, killed trying to keep his community safe – evoked anger and grief from the whole nation.

‘The pain and anguish this terrible crime inflicted on PC Harper’s widow Lissie is unimaginable. No wife should see her husband off to work, only for him not to return. ‘

She adds that she is ‘committed to doing everything in my power’ to support the police, giving them ‘tools and resources they need to keep themselves, and us, safe’.

She added: ‘PC Harper died in the line of duty protecting the public and his incredible bravery and extraordinary sacrifice will not be forgotten.’

One of a number of petitions calling for Henry Long, 19, Albert Bowers and Jessie Cole, both 18, to face a retrial for the murder of the Thames Valley officer had reached almost 260,000 signatures last night.

The trio were all found not guilty of murder at the Old Bailey last week but will be sentenced on Friday for manslaughter.

PC Harper was killed when he was dragged more than a mile after his ankle became caught in a tow strap of a getaway car as he tried to stop the teenagers stealing a quadbike.

Mrs Patel’s intervention came as Boris Johnson promised to formally respond to an open letter from Mrs Harper. 

A spokesman for No 10 said the Prime Minister’s thoughts were with the officer’s family and friends but stopped short of commenting on the trial’s outcome. 

‘The bravery which PC Harper showed in intercepting those criminals is a reminder of the risks our police officers face every day to keep us safe,’ he said. ‘His courage, dedication and professionalism represents the very best of our police – and of all of us.

‘The PM will respond to Mrs Harper’s letter formally once legal proceedings have concluded.’

Mrs Harper, 29, who married the officer just four weeks before he was killed, wrote an open letter to the PM, Mrs Patel and former Labour home secretary David Blunkett calling for ‘the retrial that he unquestionably deserves.’ 

The trial, which had to be restarted because of the pandemic, saw a juror dismissed on the penultimate day after she was heard to say to the defendants ‘goodbye boys’ as she left court.

Judge Mr Justice Andrew Edis spent almost an entire day examining evidence before dismissing her and allowing the trial to proceed. It also emerged that police received intelligence the jury might be ‘nobbled’ by the families of the defendants, who are travellers.

The Attorney General is facing calls to review the verdict. Dr David Green, of the Civitas think-tank, said it seemed unlikely there would be a retrial but said there were ‘very clear powers’ to appeal a sentence’.

Andrew Harper was a hero. He epitomised the bravery and sacrifice that make our police the best in the world. It was absolutely devastating that his life was so cruelly cut short.

To see a brave officer, newly married with his whole life ahead of him, killed trying to keep his community safe, evoked anger and grief from the whole nation.

The pain and anguish this terrible crime inflicted on PC Harper’s widow Lissie is unimaginable. No wife should see her husband off to work, only for him not to return.

My thoughts remain with Mrs Harper, his loved ones, colleagues and the community he served with great pride, who feel his loss as deeply now as they did then.

I had been Home Secretary for less than a month at the time of PC Harper’s death. One of my first and saddest visits was to Thames Valley Police to meet those he served alongside. Their courage and professionalism stays with me to this day.

All too soon after this I was visiting the force again, this time following a senseless act of terrorism which left three people dead. That day again officers demonstrated extraordinary bravery, running towards danger to prevent more people losing their lives.

It’s a reminder that all of our dedicated police officers go to work every day to serve their communities, not knowing what they might face, putting themselves in harm’s way to protect us.

As Home Secretary I remain committed to doing everything in my power to support them, giving them tools and resources they need to keep themselves, and us, safe.

During the pandemic we have seen a disgraceful increase in officers being assaulted. It is appalling that at a time when they are putting themselves at risk, helping to stop the spread of coronavirus and save lives, they face being attacked and spat at. I met some of these officers and heard first-hand about the violence they encountered in recent months.

I was shocked to hear some of their experiences – one officer told me about being stabbed in the stomach while on duty and how impacted he was by his family being unable to visit him in hospital as he recovered, due to the virus.

But they continue to go back out there day after day, selflessly putting the safety of all of us before their own.

Let me be clear – those cowards who attack our police and emergency services have no place on our streets.

I stand with all our brave officers and the families who support them, they are the best of all of us.

PC Harper died in the line of duty protecting the public and his incredible bravery and extraordinary sacrifice will not be forgotten. 

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