'Lenient' jail terms given to PC Harper's killers won't be extended, court rules

Will Taylor
·News Reporter
·4-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 lengthened. (PA/Thames Valley Police)

The jail terms given to three teenagers for the manslaughter of PC Andrew Harper will not be changed despite outcry from his widow.

PC Harper was killed on 15 August last year after he became caught in a strap attached to a vehicle driven by Henry Long, 19, who was trying to escape the scene of a quadbike theft.

He was dragged behind the car for more than a mile down a country road near Sulhamstead, Berkshire, suffering catastrophic injuries.

Long was given 16 years and passengers Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers, 18, were sentenced to 13 years in prison for his manslaughter. All were cleared of his murder.

After criticism of their sentences – led by PC Harper’s widow Lissie – attorney general Suella Braverman launched an appeal, claiming the jail terms were “unduly lenient”.

However, on Wednesday, the Court of Appeal dismissed challenges from both Braverman and the three teenagers, who had attempted to get their sentences reduced.

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

Dame Victoria Sharp said on Wednesday that although Cole and Bowers had their sentences for conspiracy to steal reduced from 38 months’ detention to 18 months, “the overall length of their custodial sentences remain unaltered”.

She noted that the trial judge, sentencing in July, had to give prison terms based on the manslaughter convictions, not murder.

“No one doubts the importance of the fact that the victim was a police officer engaged in performing his duty in the service of the public,” she said.

“No one doubts the gravity of the harm caused, involving as it did not only the death of PC Harper in dreadful circumstances, but also the anguish suffered by his bereaved family.

“The issues before this court must, however, be resolved in accordance with the law.”

Lissie Harper said: “I am of course disappointed with this outcome and ultimately feel along with the attorney general and the majority of our country that these sentences are far too lenient, that they do not reflect the severity and barbarity of the crimes they committed.

“I continue to feel let down by our justice system and the inadequate laws that we have in place.”

Harper, who has campaigned for tougher sentences for those who kill emergency workers, added: “To take someone’s life surely should mean to have your own freedom taken in return. Yet these criminals will see the light of day far, far earlier than they ever deserve to.”

A bid by Long, Cole and Bowers to appeal their manslaughter conviction failed, being branded as “wholly unarguable”.

Speaking about Long’s sentence, Braverman told the Court of Appeal in November: “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?”

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

Henry Long, 19, Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers, both 18, were all sentenced for the death of PC Andrew Harper. (PA)
Henry Long, 19, Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers, both 18, were all sentenced for the death of PC Andrew Harper. (PA)

Read more: Pair who tortured and killed man in own home for drug money jailed for life

Braverman also said Bowers and Cole received “too great a reduction” to their sentences because of their age and “learning difficulties”.

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

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

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

He said the officer’s death was a “freakish accident” and added: “There was no intentional application of force or violence… there was no intent whatsoever to cause serious bodily harm or death.”

An aerial view of the scene at Ufton Lane, near Sulhamstead, Berkshire, where Pc Andrew Harper was killed. (PA Images)
An aerial view of the scene at Ufton Lane, near Sulhamstead, Berkshire, where PC Andrew Harper was killed. (PA Images)

Lawyers for Long, Cole and Bowers argued their sentences should be reduced, with Timothy Ragatt QC, for Bowers, arguing the “idea” of branding the sentences “unduly lenient... is, to be blunt, far-fetched in the extreme”.

Read more: Man who dropped bowling ball on council worker from window faces jail

On Wednesday, the attorney general’s office said: “The attorney general challenged the sentences given to PC Harper’s killers as she considered them to be too low, but she respects the decision of the Court of Appeal.

“Her thoughts remain with PC Harper’s family for their unimaginable loss.”

Watch: Lissie Harper speaks after teens sentenced over PC Harper’s death