PC Harper's killer should have been given a life sentence, Attorney General tells court of appeal

Martin Evans
·3-min read
PC Harper with his wife Lissie
PC Harper with his wife Lissie

The widow of Andrew Harper, the police officer dragged to death by a gang of teenage car  thieves, has vowed to continue her "agoning battle for justice" as the Attorney General went to court to argue the ringleader should have received a life sentence. 

Henry Long, 19, was jailed for 16 years and his 18-year-old accomplices, Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers, received 13 years each after they were convicted in July of the manslaughter of the newly married Thames Valley Police officer.

PC Harper, 28, became entangled in a crane strap attached to the back of a car driven by Long as the gang fled the scene of a quad bike theft in Berkshire in August 2019.

Yesterday his widow, Lissie, was present at the Court of Appeal as the Attorney General, Suella Braverman, launched a legal bid to have the "unduly lenient" sentences increased.

Lissie Harper, the widow of Pc Andrew Harper, outside the Old Bailey in London
Lissie Harper, the widow of Pc Andrew Harper, outside the Old Bailey in London

Mrs Braverman told the Appeal judges Long's 16-year jail term did not reflect the seriousness of the offence and was "contrary to the interests of justice".

She told the court: "Pc Harper paid the ultimate price for his bravery and this should be reflected in the sentence.

"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?" 

Mrs Harper, who is campaigning for a law that would mean an automatic life term for those who killed emergency workers when they were on duty, said the current sentencing system was outdated and flawed.

Speaking after the hearing, she said: "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 punished.

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

She went on: “I have every respect for the Attorney General for reaching the right decision in referring this case for review, I know that the majority of our country stands with her and with me in wanting change.

“Perhaps this may now go to show at the very least the urgency in which we need to be tougher and more prepared to shield our heroes from the atrocities that they continue to face.

“And so our battle to achieve Harper’s Law - as a fitting legacy and tribute to Andrew - will continue unabated as we await the outcome of today’s hearing."

The Court of Appeal is expected to announce its decision in the coming weeks.

The three teenagers who killed Pc Harper were cleared of his murder after a trial at the Old Bailey.

Long pleaded guilty to manslaughter while Cole and Bowers, who were passengers in the car were found guilty by a jury.

Mrs Braverman told the Court of Appeal the sentencing judge "accorded too great a reduction" to Bowers and Coles' sentences "for their age and learning difficulties".

Left to right: Driver Henry Long, 19, who dragged Pc Andrew Harper to his death, who has been found not guilty at the Old Bailey of murder but had earlier pleaded guilty to manslaughter and his passengers Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers, both 18, who were cleared of murder but found guilty of manslaughter.
Left to right: Driver Henry Long, 19, who dragged Pc Andrew Harper to his death, who has been found not guilty at the Old Bailey of murder but had earlier pleaded guilty to manslaughter and his passengers Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers, both 18, who were cleared of murder but found guilty of manslaughter.

In written submissions, she 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."

Pc Harper and Lissie had been married for just four weeks when he responded to reports of a burglary in Sulhamstead, Berkshire, on August 15.

As he attempted to apprehend the gang, he became tangled in a crane strap that was being used to tow the stolen quad bike.

He was dragged for more than a mile at speeds in excess of 40mph and died at the scene after suffering catastrophic injuries.