The widow of PC Andrew Harper has said she feels ‘let down’ by the justice system after the Court of Appeal refused to increase the jail terms for his teenage killers.
Henry Long, 19, was jailed in July for 16 years and 18-year-olds Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers were handed 13 years in custody over the death of the Thames Valley Police traffic officer.
PC Harper, 28, was caught in a strap attached to the back of a car driven by Long and dragged to his death down a winding country road as the trio fled the scene of a quad bike theft in Berkshire on the night of August 15, 2019.
Long – the leader of the group – admitted manslaughter, while passengers Cole and Bowers were convicted of manslaughter after a trial at the Old Bailey. All three were cleared of murder by the jury, which deliberated for more than 12 hours.
Lissie Harper, who was married to PC Harper for just four weeks before he was killed, slammed the ‘far too lenient’ sentences, saying they ‘do not reflect the barbarity of the crime’.
PC Andrew Harper (pictured with his wife, Lissie), 28, was caught in a strap attached to the back of a car driven by Long and dragged to his death down a country road in Berkshire in 2019
Lissie Harper, pictured above, the widow of PC Harper. The Court of Appeal has ruled that the sentences for manslaughter handed to PC Harper’s killers will not be changed
Handout issued by Thames Valley Police of Henry Long (left), 19, and 18-year-olds Jessie Cole (centre) and Albert Bowers (right), who were jailed over the death of the police traffic officer
At a hearing in November, Attorney General Suella Braverman said the youths’ sentences should be increased, for an offence that was ‘as serious a case of manslaughter as it is possible to envisage’.
But lawyers representing Long, Cole and Bowers, who appeared by video-link from HMP Belmarsh, argued that their sentences were too long and should be reduced.
On Wednesday morning, Dame Victoria Sharp – sitting with Lord Justice Holroyde and Mr Justice William Davis – dismissed the Attorney General’s application to increase the trio’s sentences.
The Court of Appeal also rejected Long, Cole and Bowers’ appeals against their sentences for manslaughter as ‘wholly unarguable’.
Cole and Bowers had also sought to appeal against their convictions for Pc Harper’s manslaughter, but this was also rejected as being ‘wholly unarguable’.
The Court of Appeal did reduce the sentences imposed on the pair for conspiracy to steal, from 38 months’ detention to an 18-month detention and training order given their ages at the time of the offence.
However, Dame Victoria said: ‘This does not affect the sentences for manslaughter and, because the sentences were concurrent, it does not affect the overall length of the sentences.’
She added: ‘The effect of our decision is that all three offenders remain convicted of the manslaughter of PC Harper and the overall length of their custodial sentences remain unaltered.’
PC Harper, pictured above. Long – the leader of the group – admitted manslaughter, while passengers Cole and Bowers were convicted of manslaughter after a trial at the Old Bailey
Lissie Harper pictured speaking outside the High Court in November this year. The widow of PC Harper had called for tougher sentences to be given to her husband’s killers
Lissie (pictured in November) said she was ‘disappointed’ with the Court of Appeal decision, adding that felt ‘let down’ by the justice system
In a statement after the ruling, a spokesman for 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.’
PC Harper’s widow Lissie said she was ‘disappointed’ with the Court of Appeal decision adding that felt ‘let down’ by the justice system.
In a statement, she said: ‘Many months have passed since I sat in a cold and soulless courtroom, awaiting the fate to be given to the criminals who took my husband’s life and our future together.
‘Many days I have spent fighting against an inadequate sentence and a wrong-doing that I could not accept.
‘I wish to offer my sincere gratitude to the Attorney General and show my respect to her for the decisions she made regarding the undue leniency of this case.
‘I know that she made the right decisions in seeking review of these sentences and regardless of the outcome I am pleased that she holds the same views as myself and so many other law-abiding citizens of this country.
At a hearing in November, Attorney General Suella Braverman (pictured above) said the youths’ sentences should be increased
PC Harper’s widow Lissie pictured attending the High Court appeal hearing in November. They had been married just four weeks when he was killed
‘Today after so much waiting we have finally been given the outcome of these long-awaited decisions regarding these three men, their futures and whether or not justice will ultimately be served.
‘Of course, no punishment, no time in prison will ever serve to make up for the theft of someone’s life, and not just someone, but an incredible person who gave without greed or expectation to his fellow man, and I will be eternally proud to call Andrew my husband.
‘I miss him more as each day passes and I will continue to live my life in his honour, with respect, love and an unbreakable moral code.
‘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.’
PC Harper’s widow previously called for tougher sentences for her husband’s teenage killers and said that ‘the whole country stands with her’ in a speech outside the High Court in November.
Albert Bowers, left, and Jessie Cole, middle, both 18, were seen laughing as they were handed 13-year sentences at the Old Bailey on July 31
Lissie’s statement continued: ‘My husband was killed in a barbaric way that has seen the nation shocked. This single act has rocked the lives of so many people who both loved Andrew and those who have watched from afar the heart-breaking story of his death.
‘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.
‘I remain more determined than ever to do what is right and to ensure we see what should have been in place so long ago. I know now more than ever the importance and requirement for Harper’s Law, which would see those who kill our emergency services heroes receive a life jail sentence.
‘I will fervently continue to fight for the safety and justice that our emergency service heroes so greatly deserve.
‘No person should go to work and never return home. No person who works tirelessly and without gratitude to provide a service to our people should ever be placed in such a position that they lose their lives, and ultimately are not given the respect to even see justice prevail in their name.
‘So along with a mighty team and the support of the public, I will not stop until I see change in our systems.
‘I will not give up until Harper’s Law is passed through Parliament and my husband’s death goes to stand for the heroic and honourable service he gave to us all.
‘I hope you will all stand with me in demanding better, striving for more and ultimately giving our protectors the respect they deserve.’