Court hears bid to review 'lenient' sentences of PC Harper's killers

Will Taylor
·News Reporter
·3 min read
The three killers of PC Andrew Harper are appealing their sentences, while the attorney general is asking for them to be lengthened. (PA/Thames Valley Police)
The three killers of PC Andrew Harper are appealing their sentences, while the attorney general is asking for them to be seen as unduly lenient. (PA/Thames Valley Police)

One of the teenagers imprisoned for killing PC Andrew Harper should have been jailed for life, a court was told on Monday.

Henry Long, 19, was jailed for 16 years and Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers, both 18, were given 13 years for the manslaughter of the Thames Valley Police traffic officer.

Suella Braverman, the attorney general for England, told the Court of Appeal the jail terms are “unduly lenient”.

PC Harper, 28, was dragged for more than a mile down a country road behind a car driven by Long, who was fleeing the scene of a quad bike theft.

The officer was caught in a strap attached to the vehicle’s rear, and suffered catastrophic injuries. He died at the scene, near Sulhamstead, Berkshire, on 15 August, 2019.

PC Harper was killed while responding to a theft in 2019. (PA)
PC Harper was killed while responding to a theft in 2019. (PA)

All three teenagers were cleared of PC Harper’s murder. Long admitted manslaughter and Cole and Bowers were convicted of manslaughter after a trial.

The sentences they received led to outcry, including from PC Harper’s widow Lissie.

On Monday, Braverman told the Court of Appeal of Long’s jail term: “A life sentence was the appropriate sentence for the first offender, who was and remains dangerous… if not in a case such as this, then when?”

She told Dame Victoria Sharp, Lord Justice Holroyde and Justice William Davis that Long’s offence was “as serious a case of manslaughter as it is possible to envisage”.

She said the sentencing judge “accorded too great a reduction” to Bowers’ and Coles’ sentences because of “their age and learning difficulties”.

Henry Long, Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers are appealing their sentences. (PA/Thames Valley Police)
Henry Long, Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers are appealing their sentences. (PA/Thames Valley Police)
Lissie Harper has criticised the length of her husband's killers' sentences. (Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire)
Lissie Harper has criticised the length of her husband's killers' sentences. (Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire)

In writing, Braverman said: “These are sentences that have caused and continue to cause widespread public concern.

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

Rossano Scamardella QC, for Long, said Braverman’s remarks about “widespread public concern” should have “no influence on the issue of whether this sentence ought to be adjusted one way or the other”.

“Widespread public concern is not necessarily an indicator that something has gone wrong, either with a verdict or a sentence,” he said.

Describing PC Harper’s death as a “freakish accident”, he added: “There was no intentional application of force or violence… there was no intent whatsoever to cause serious bodily harm or death.”

The three teenagers are hoping to get permission to appeal the lengths of their sentences.

Timothy Raggatt QC, for Bowers, said: “The idea that these sentences could be described as unduly lenient… is, to be blunt, far-fetched in the extreme.”

The court will decide if the sentences are too lenient at a later date.

Lissie Harper said on Monday that she was proud to fight against something she saw as “unacceptable” and added: “Reaching a step closer to a fair outcome is something that I have strived towards for a long time.

“We have all hoped and prayed that our beloved boy’s death will not go improperly unpunished.

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

Watch: Lissie Harper meets Priti Patel

During the previous trial, the teenagers’ defence said the officer’s death was a “freak event” that could not have been foreseen, while the prosecution said they should have realised he was being dragged behind them.

A petition calling for the sentences to be overturned due to their leniency has reached more than 400,000 backers, while Lissie Harper has campaigned for life sentences for those who kill emergency workers.