Three teenagers who killed PC Andrew Harper should have faced stiffer sentences, including life imprisonment for one of them because of the seriousness of their crime, the government’s top lawyer told the High Court today.
Attorney General Suella Braverman addressed the court herself in an unprecedented move to appeal against the sentences handed down to the trio for the horrific killing of PC Harper, claiming that they were ‘unduly lenient’, and caused ‘widespread public concern’.
She also argued that as a result, public confidence in the judicial system had been dented, describing PC Harper’s killing as ‘truly terrifying and sickening.’
Henry Long, 19, was jailed for 16 years and Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers, both 18 were each jailed for 13 years in July for the manslaughter of Thames Valley Police traffic officer PC Andrew Harper, 28 last year.
The teenagers, all members of the travelling community, were convicted following a five-week trial when the court heard that after stealing a quad bike in Berkshire, their getaway car dragged PC Harper to his death after his ankle became caught in its trailing tow rope.
A getaway car dragged PC Harper to his death after his ankle became caught in its trailing tow rope
PC Harper’s heartbroken wife Lissie attended the High Court appeal hearing today. They had been married just four weeks when he was killed
Ms Braverman, 40 told three High Court judges that Long should have been convicted to life imprisonment while his two accomplices should have faced longer prison sentences.
She said: ‘Having correctly found that the first offender was dangerous and that this was a case of manslaughter very close to a case of murder in its seriousness the Judge was wrong not to impose a life sentence on the first offender (Long).’
She added: ‘Seriousness of an offence is very important criteria in sentencing. The fact is that they caused the death of a police officer acting in the course of his duties. These men put their lives at risk every single day.
‘PC Harper paid the ultimate price for his bravery and this should be reflected in the sentencing. A life sentence for Long would have been appropriate in a case like this.’
Ms Braverman, who does not normally appear in court in her role as Attorney General described Long, Cole and Bowers as career criminals who committed a crime ‘that was close to murder.’
Referring to the convictions of Cole and Bowers, she told the High Court that they should have been sentenced to imprisonment for longer because they killed a police officer on duty.
She also argued that their sentences were incorrectly reduced because the judge took into account their age and learning difficulties, which she claimed was ‘excessive.’
Tom Little QC, who appeared in court alongside the Attorney General, told the court that all three men must have known that PC Harper was being dragged by their car as they tried to escape.
Henry Long, 19 (left), was jailed for 16 years and Jessie Cole (centre) and Albert Bowers (right), both 18 were each jailed for 13 years in July for the manslaughter of Andrew Harper
Attorney General Suella Braverman addressed the court herself in an unprecedented move to appeal against the sentences handed down to the trio for the horrific killing of PC Harper, claiming that they were ‘unduly lenient’
He added: ‘The slalom like road markings was evidence of the driver trying to get rid of PC Harper who was being dragged from behind.
‘They looked behind and saw PC Andrew Harper. From the moment they pulled away they must have known that they were dragging a police officer.’
The High Court was told that even the Old Bailey judge at the trial of the three agreed that they must have known that somebody was being dragged by their car and that the jury should have found them guilty of murder based on this.
Mr Little added: ‘We say that this sits unhappily with what the jury decided.’
Lawyers for the three convicted men argued against the Attorney General’s case, claiming that they had no intention of killing or hurting anybody when they set out to steal the quadbike and described PC Harper’s killing as a ‘freak accident.’
They also claimed that the sentences imposed on them were ‘anything but lenient.’
The case was referred for appeal by Ms Suella Braverman under the scheme which allows crime victims, their families, prosecutors or the public to ask for a review of sentences they believe are too low.
PC Harper’s heartbroken wife Lissie attended the High Court appeal hearing, which was heard before Dame Victoria Sharp, the president of the Queen’s Bench Division, Lord Justice Holroyde and Mr Justice William Davis.
PC Harper and his wife had been married for just four weeks when he and a Thames Valley Police colleague responded to a late-night burglary in Berkshire last August.
The court heard that when the officer’s body was discovered by his colleagues after he had fallen away from the sling, he was completely naked except for his socks.
A snaking trail of blood behind him marked the course of his body down the lane.
When he was arrested at the Four Houses Corner travellers’ site in Ufton Nervet, Berkshire, Long claimed he had been watching a Fast and Furious DVD at the time of the killing.
He complained police were unfairly targeting travellers and said: ‘I don’t give a f*** about any of this,’ when he was charged.