PC Andrew Harper’s teenage killer ‘should be jailed for life’, attorney general tells court

Defence barrister calls Suella Braverman’s argument ‘far-fetched in the extreme’ after rare personal intervention

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Monday 30 November 2020 19:35 GMT
Pc Andrew Harper's killers jailed

A teenage getaway driver who dragged a police officer to his death should be jailed for life, the attorney general has told judges.

Suella Braverman has taken the unusual step of personally making representations to the Court of Appeal under a scheme for “unduly lenient” sentences.

She said the prison terms given for the manslaughter of PC Andrew Harper had caused “widespread public concern” and should be increased.

But a lawyer representing driver Henry Long, 19, said that should have “no influence on the issue of whether this sentence ought to be adjusted one way or the other”.

Rossano Scamardella QC added: “Widespread public concern is not necessarily an indicator that something has gone wrong, either with a verdict or a sentence.”

Timothy Raggatt QC, representing 18-year-old passenger Albert Bowers, said: “The idea that these sentences could be described as unduly lenient ... is, to be blunt, far-fetched in the extreme.”

Long, Bowers and Jessie Cole, also 18, denied knowing the 28-year-old officer was attached to their car during a high-speed getaway in Berkshire on 15 August last year.

But the prosecution said the defendants must have been aware that PC Harper — at more than 6ft and weighing 14 stone — was being dragged behind the vehicle.

The Thames Valley Police officer and a colleague had been called to reports of a quad bike being stolen when they encountered the teenagers towing the vehicle on a narrow country lane.

PC Harper was caught in a strap used to tow the quad bike and dragged to his death as Long sped away, with Bowers and Cole as passengers.

The trio were cleared of murder at a retrial in July. Long admitted the lesser offence of manslaughter while his friends were convicted of the same charge.

Newly-wed police officer killed after being dragged under vehicle while responding to burglary reports

At July’s sentencing hearing, Justice Edis said the case was “close to case of murder in its seriousnses” and described the killers as “young, unintelligent but professional criminals”.

Long was jailed for 16 years and Cole and Bowers were each jailed for 13 years.

Ms Braverman said PC Harper's killing was “as serious a case of manslaughter as it is possible to envisage” and that Long’s sentence did not reflect the seriousness of his crime.

“A life sentence was the appropriate sentence for the first offender (Long), who was and remains dangerous ... if not in a case such as this, then when?” she told Dame Victoria Sharp, Lord Justice Holroyde and Mr Justice William Davis on Monday.

“PC Harper paid the ultimate price for his bravery and this should be reflected in the sentence.”

The attorney general said that, if the court found Long's sentence was unduly lenient, Bowers and Cole's sentences “should also have been commensurately longer”.

Ms Braverman argued that the sentencing judge “accorded too great a reduction” to the teenagers’ sentences “for their age and learning difficulties”.

“These are sentences that have caused and continue to cause widespread public concern,” she added.

“It appears to me that the sentences passed on the offenders were unduly lenient.”

Mr Scamardella told the court that PC Harper's death was the result of "a freakish accident" after he became attached to the back of the car, adding: “There was no intent whatsoever to cause serious bodily harm or death.”

Lawyers representing Bowers and Cole are also asking for permission to appeal against the length of their sentences, arguing that they are too long.

Long, Cole and Bowers appeared by video link from HMP Belmarsh at the hearing and the Court of Appeal will deliver its judgment at a later date.

PC Harper’s wife, Lissie Harper, is campaigning for a new law that would mean those who kill emergency workers are jailed for life, and met the home secretary and lord chancellor earlier this month.

Speaking outside court on Monday, she said she was left “feeling let down and angry” by the original sentences.

“We continue with our agonising battle for justice, a journey that we have had to endure for too long,” Ms Harper added.

“I have every respect for the attorney general for reaching the right decision in referring this case for review, I know that the majority of our country stands with her and with me in wanting change.

“Perhaps this may now go to show at the very least the urgency in which we need to be tougher and more prepared to shield our heroes from the atrocities that they continue to face.

“And so our battle to achieve Harper’s Law — as a fitting legacy and tribute to Andrew — will continue unabated as we await the outcome of today’s hearing.”

Additional reporting by PA

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in