The leader of the group of teenagers who killed PC Andrew Harper should have been given a life sentence rather than the 16 years he received, while his accomplices should also have their jail terms increased from 13 years each, a court has heard.
The attorney general argued that the sentences handed to Henry Long, 19, and the 18-year-olds Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers were all unduly lenient during a court of appeal hearing on Monday.
“PC Harper paid the ultimate price for his bravery and this should be reflected in the sentence,” Suella Braverman QC said in a written submission. “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.”
Braverman told the hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in London that Long’s sentence did not reflect the seriousness of the offence he committed and was contrary to the interests of justice.
“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 the three appeal court judges.
The attorney general also argued that the sentencing judge “accorded too great a reduction” to Bowers and Coles’ sentences “for their age and learning difficulties”.
Lawyers representing the trio, who appeared by video link from Belmarsh prison, are expected to apply for permission to appeal against the length of their sentences, arguing they were “manifestly excessive”.
Harper was dragged to his death on 15 August 2019 after becoming tangled in a crane strap attached to the back of the teenagers’ getaway car. The Thames Valley police officer had been called out after reports that teenagers were trying to steal a quad bike. The 28-year-old had got married to his partner, Lissie Harper, only weeks before.
Long, who was driving, admitted manslaughter, while Cole and Bowers were convicted at their trial in July. All three were cleared of murder by the jury, which deliberated for more than 12 hours.
Rossano Scamardella QC, representing Long, said Braverman’s comments about public concern should have “no influence on the issue of whether this sentence ought to be adjusted one way or the other”.
He said: “Widespread public concern is not necessarily an indicator that something has gone wrong, either with a verdict or a sentence.” Scamardella told the court Harper’s death was the result of “a freakish accident” after he became attached to the back of the car, adding: “There was no intentional application of force or violence … there was no intent whatsoever to cause serious bodily harm or death.”
Timothy Raggatt QC, representing Bowers, said: “The idea that these sentences could be described as unduly lenient … is, to be blunt, far-fetched in the extreme.”
The police officer’s wife has campaigned for a “Harper’s law”, which would mean those who kill emergency workers are jailed for life. Speaking outside the court after the hearing, Lissie Harper said: “I stand before you with my heart as heavy as it was those many months ago when I stood feeling let down and angry outside of the Old Bailey.
“Yet today I feel pride in myself for not settling for something that I see as unacceptable. Proud to fight for my heroic husband Andrew as I also continue to push for the safety and justice of his fellow emergency services protectors in the future.” At the conclusion of the hearing, Dame Victoria Sharp, sitting with Lord Justice Holroyde and Mr Justice William Davis, said the court would give its ruling on the appeals at a later date.