10:52, August 04 155 0 theguardian.com

2020-08-04 10:52:04
PC Andrew Harper killing: sentences referred to attorney general

The jail terms handed to three teenagers who killed a police officer as they tried to escape the scene of a crime have been referred to the attorney general, who will consider claims they are unduly lenient.

The ringleader, 19-year-old Henry Long, was sentenced to 16 years in prison for the manslaughter of PC Andrew Harper in August 2019, while his accomplices 18-year-olds Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers, were each jailed for 13 years at a hearing the Old Bailey last week.

The latter two could be released on licence after serving less than nine years behind bars and Long could be out in less than 11 under legislation that requires each to serve two thirds of their sentence before becoming eligible for release.

On Tuesday, the attorney general’s office confirmed it had been asked to consider whether the jail terms were unduly lenient. “The attorney general’s thoughts are with the family and friends of PC Andrew Harper at this difficult time.

“I can confirm that we have received a request for the cases of Henry Long, Albert Bowers and Jessie Cole to be considered under the unduly lenient sentence scheme. The Law Officers have 28 days from sentencing to consider the case,” a spokesman for the attorney general’s office said.

PC Harper was killed trying to catch the three teenagers as they attempted to steal a quad bike. He got tangled in a crane strap dangling from the back of their Seat Toledo as they sought to escape at high speed.

After the verdicts were reached, his widow Lissie Harper expressed bitter disappointment that her husband’s killers were convicted of manslaughter, not murder, by a jury that found it had not been proven beyond reasonable doubt that the teenagers knew the police officer was being dragged behind their vehicle.

The attorney general has no power to order a retrial, and prosecutors would either need new and compelling evidence to apply for the acquittals to be quashed, or there would need to be proven interference with the jury.

Measures were put in place to protect the jury and one female juror was discharged after she was seen by a prison officer to mouth “Bye boys” to the teenagers in the dock.

But the trial judge, Mr Justice Edis, told the sentencing hearing there was no evidence the jury had been pressured. He told the Old Bailey: “It may be believed in some quarters that the jury was subject to some improper pressure. To the best of my knowledge and belief, there is no truth in that at all.”