The home secretary has said courts must hand out tougher sentences for attacks on police to deter future violence after an officer was killed while investigating reports of a burglary in Berkshire.
Ten suspects between 13 and 30 were arrested shortly after at a council-run caravan and mobile home site nearby, with police granted extra time to keep them in custody for questioning.
Courts have the power to hand out life sentences over incidents in which an officer is killed, but Priti Patel has said there must also be a “crackdown” on all police assaults to stop such tragedies from happening.
Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, the home secretary said the courts must “do more to stop the spate of assaults on our police officers” – and “ensure the law acts as the deterrent it should be”.
Ms Patel said: “If we are to defeat this epidemic and reverse the deeply worrying trend of rising violence, then we must look at the criminal justice system as a whole. Alongside our support for the police, we will ensure sentences are as tough as they can be.
“Whole life sentences can already be imposed when a police officer is killed.
“The government has supported the Assaults on Emergency Workers Act, which increases the length of sentences available when an officer is attacked.
“However, the courts need to crackdown on police assaults and they must have the powers to approve strong sentences for these crimes to do more to stop the spate of assaults on our police officers and ensure that the law acts as the deterrent it should be.”
PC Harper was a member of the Roads Policing Proactive Unit based at Abingdon police station and was also a newlywed, having married in Oxfordshire last month.
He and his wife Lissie were due to enjoy their honeymoon together next week.
Ms Patel said PC Harper “is a hero” and the “very best of British policing”, who showed “extraordinary” bravery in the moments before his death.
She added the country must do more to recognise the sacrifice made by those in policing, and that she had instructed the Home Office to explore how it can better support the families of officers injured or killed by criminals.
“This will ensure that the uniquely brave officers who serve this great country get the support and respect they so richly deserve,” the home secretary said, adding: “I want the country to be proud of our police – who are the best in the world, which means we must be there for them as they are there for us, time and time again.”
Earlier, PC Harper’s father Philip told Sky News that the family is “devastated”, adding: “We’re in a bad place”.
One message on flowers left at the scene said: “Harps, I am truly gutted. A great cop, a great man, a great friend.
“There will always be a part of my heart missing now. RIP mate, love you. Chef, Sarah and Harry.”
Another said: “Such a shocking, mindless, horrific act of brutality. This has been impossible for us to get our heads around. PC Harper was a beautiful young soul. A brave man protecting us all and just doing his job.”
PC Harper had been raising money for the charity Children With Cancer UK, planning to compete in the 20-mile, 200 obstacle Dirty Weekend race in Peterborough in May next year.
He had hoped to raise £500 via his page on the Virgin Money Giving site – but a surge in donations over the past few days has seen the total pass £13,000.
The 28-year-old wrote that he had “never been much of a runner”, but added: “Even if only one child benefits then it will be well and truly worth it.”
Also, a Just Giving page set up by police for PC Harper’s family has raised more than £42,000.
It reads: “Police officers all over Thames Valley and the rest of the UK go to work each and every day to do their duty.
“We are courageous, caring and compassionate. We confront danger on a daily basis. We know there is a risk when we put on the uniform but we do so as we are proud to protect the public.
“Sadly on very rare and horrendous occasions a colleague makes the ultimate sacrifice. We will ensure that heroism is never forgotten. All our thoughts remain with Andrew’s wife, family, friends and close colleagues.”