This paper describes the key design features and performance of HARP, an innovative heterodyne focal-plane array receiver designed and built to operate in the submillimetre on the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) in Hawaii. The 4×4 element array uses SIS detectors, and is the first sub-millimetre spectral imaging system on the JCMT. HARP provides 3-dimensional imaging capability with high sensitivity at 325-375 GHz and affords significantly improved productivity in terms of speed of mapping. HARP was designed and built as a collaborative project between the Cavendish Astrophysics Group in Cambridge UK, the UK-Astronomy Technology Centre in Edinburgh UK, the Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics in Canada and the Joint Astronomy Centre in Hawaii. SIS devices for the mixers were fabricated to a Cavendish Astrophysics Group design at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. Working in conjunction with the new Auto Correlation Spectral Imaging System (ACSIS), first light with HARP was achieved in December 2005. HARP synthesizes a number of interesting features across all elements of the design; we present key performance characteristics and images of astronomical observations obtained during commissioning.