Widow of PC Andrew Harper says she feels ‘let down’ by justice system


The widow of PC Andrew Harper said today she feels ‘let down’ by the justice system after Court of Appeal judges 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.

Dame Victoria Sharp today dismissed the Attorney General’s challenge to extend the trio’s sentences, saying that ‘mere disagreement’ with the jail terms did not provide a ground for finding the sentencing ‘unduly lenient’ or ‘wrong in principle’.

The judges also denied the killers’ attempt to have their manslaughter sentences reduced, but the court did reduce the sentences imposed on Cole and Bowers 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. 

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.    

Today his widow 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’. 

Meanwhile, Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds described the news as ‘disappointing’ while Nottinghamshire’s British Transport Police (BTP) said it was ‘devastated’.

Thames Valley’s Police and Crime Commissioner said many will be ‘understandably disappointed’ by the ruling, but reminded that the killers’ own appeals against their sentences were also dismissed.

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, the widow of PC Harper, pictured speaking in Oxfordshire today. She has slammed the 'far too lenient' sentences, saying they 'do not reflect the barbarity of the crime'

Lissie Harper, the widow of PC Harper, pictured speaking in Oxfordshire today. She has slammed the ‘far too lenient’ sentences, saying they ‘do not reflect the barbarity of the crime’

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

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

Cole and Bowers will only serve two thirds of their sentences behind bars and the rest on licence. 

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 – sitting with Lord Justice Holroyde and Mr Justice William Davis – also rejected Long, Cole and Bowers’ appeals against their sentences for manslaughter as ‘wholly unarguable’.

Cole and Bowers had sought to appeal against their convictions for PC Harper’s manslaughter, but this was 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.’ 

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, 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

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 above. The Court of Appeal has ruled that the sentences for manslaughter handed to PC Harper's killers will not be changed

Lissie Harper, pictured above. The Court of Appeal has ruled that the sentences for manslaughter handed to PC Harper’s killers will not be changed 

‘No-one doubts the gravity of the harm caused’: Dame Victoria’s statement in full

In the Court of Appeal’s written judgment, Dame Victoria said: ‘No-one doubts the seriousness of the offending in this case.

‘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.

‘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.

‘As the (trial) judge rightly said, PC Harper’s family have the profound sympathy of the nation.

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

Referring to the Attorney General’s argument that the sentences imposed on Long, Bowers and Cole were ‘unduly lenient’, Dame Victoria said: ‘The judge had to sentence three young offenders for manslaughter, not for murder.

‘Mere disagreement with his decisions as to the nature and length of the appropriate sentences provides neither a ground for finding the sentencing to have been unduly lenient nor a ground for finding a sentence to have been wrong in principle or manifestly excessive.’

PC Harper’s widow Lissie said she was ‘disappointed’ with the Court of Appeal decision, adding that she 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.

‘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.’

In the Court of Appeal’s written judgement, Dame Victoria said ‘no one doubts the seriousness of the offending’ in the case and that ‘no-one doubts the gravity of the harm caused’.

Referring to the Attorney General’s argument that the sentences imposed on Long, Bowers and Cole were ‘unduly lenient’, she stated: ‘The judge had to sentence three young offenders for manslaughter, not for murder.’

At a hearing in November, Attorney General Suella Braverman (pictured above) said the youths' sentences should be increased

At a hearing in November, Attorney General Suella Braverman (pictured above) said the youths’ sentences should be increased

Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds described the ruling as 'disappointing', writing: 'It shows why Lissie's campaign is so important'

Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds described the ruling as ‘disappointing’, writing: ‘It shows why Lissie’s campaign is so important’

British Transport Police in Nottinghamshire posted: 'We @BTPNotts are devastated that offenders guilty for killing PC Harper will not have their sentences increased'

British Transport Police in Nottinghamshire posted: ‘We @BTPNotts are devastated that offenders guilty for killing PC Harper will not have their sentences increased’

Mr Thomas-Symonds tweeted: ‘This is disappointing news for the family & friends of PC Andrew Harper, especially for his wife Lissie.

‘Whilst, of course, the court’s judgement must be respected, it shows why Lissie’s campaign is so important and why we’re committed to working with Lissie & the Police Federation on this.’

The BTP in Nottinghamshire also posted: ‘We @BTPNotts are devastated that offenders guilty for killing PC Harper will not have their sentences increased. 

‘We commend Lissie and Andrew’s parents for their continued efforts involved in #AndrewsLaw and #HarpersLaw’.

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.

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.

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

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

Long (pictured in September 2019) - the leader of the group - admitted manslaughter, while passengers Cole and Bowers were convicted of manslaughter after a trial at the Old Bailey

Long (pictured in September 2019) – the leader of the group – admitted manslaughter, while passengers Cole and Bowers were convicted of manslaughter after a trial at the Old Bailey

‘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.

What is the Unduly Lenient scheme and how does it work? 

The Attorney General’s Office (AGO) operates a scheme in which people can apply to have a sentence reviewed if they believe the sentence is ‘unduly lenient’. The scheme is reserved for the most serious cases, including murder and rape.  

Other serious crimes including robbery, some child sex crimes and child cruelty cases, some serious frauds, some serious drug crimes and some terror-related offences are included. Manslaughter, for which Henry Long, Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers were sentenced, is also included. 

Anyone can recommend that a sentence be reviewed under the AGO’s scheme – even if they aren’t involved in the case – and only one person has to ask. The request must be made within 28 days of sentencing. Once the Attorney General’s Office has reviewed the case, they may send it to the Court of Appeal who can decide if the sentence should stay the same, be increased if it is ‘unduly lenient’ or they can refuse to hear the case.

Earlier this year it was revealed that new statistics for 2019 show 63 offenders had their sentences increased under the scheme. In 2019, Law Officers received 577 applications for sentences to be reviewed which met the necessary criteria to be considered under the scheme. 

Of these, 93 were referred to the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal agreed that 64 sentences were too low, and as a result 63 offenders had their sentences increased. A total of 16 people were imprisoned after avoiding prison time at their original sentencing. 

‘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.’

Anthony Stansfeld, Police and Crime Commissioner for Thames Valley, said: ‘Today is yet another difficult and emotional day for PC Harper’s family, friends and colleagues across Thames Valley Police. 

‘Many will be understandably disappointed that the sentences for Andrew’s killers were not extended. Nevertheless, their own appeals were also rejected and so the legal challenges against their conviction have now come to an end. They will serve their sentences.’ 

Deputy Police & Crime Commissioner, Matthew Barber, added: ‘The horrific crimes of these men shocked people across the country, but the greatest tragedy is of course felt by Andrew’s family. 

‘Our thoughts are with them on this difficult day and whilst this represents the end of the legal battle of the sentencing in this case, I know that Lissie Harper will continue to campaign for to seek life sentences for anyone found guilty of causing the death of emergency workers.’

Since the verdicts Lissie has been campaigning for a retrial, saying: ‘I have a whole life sentence to bear.’ 

Long and friends Bowers and Cole were previously seen joyfully embracing each other via a video-link from Belmarsh prison after they were accused of murder but convicted of manslaughter.

The three killers had laughed and joked with each other throughout the trial and when Long was charged he said he ‘didn’t give a f***.’

Just four weeks before he died on Admoor Lane, PC Harper had married at a Georgian Manor and was due to go on his honeymoon.

Parts of the opening of the trial were so terrible that his family took the unprecedented step of asking the media not to report them.

When the body was discovered by his colleagues after he had fallen away from the sling he was completely naked except for his socks.

A snaking trail of blood behind him marked the course of his body down the lane.

His widow was joined in court by his parents Phil Harper and Debbie Adlam and his brother Sean.

Jurors who were visibly shocked by the details of the case had been offered counselling before the trial began.

PC Harper's mother, Deborah Adlam, pictured previously arriving at the Old Bailey for the sentencing. She was accompanied by her husband, Phil

PC Harper’s mother, Deborah Adlam, pictured previously arriving at the Old Bailey for the sentencing. She was accompanied by her husband, Phil 

Deborah Adlam, holding a photograph of her son PC Harper, at her home in Oxfordshire. She had welcomed the review into the sentences of her son's killers

Deborah Adlam, holding a photograph of her son PC Harper, at her home in Oxfordshire. She had welcomed the review into the sentences of her son’s killers

All the police officers involved in the discovery of his body were also advised to seek help to deal with the trauma of the case.

When he was arrested at the Four Houses Corner travellers site in Ufton Nervet, Berkshire, Long claimed he had been watching a Fast and Furious DVD at the time of the killing.

He complained police were unfairly targeting travellers and said: ‘I don’t give a f*** about any of this,’ when he was charged.

Long, Bowers and Cole, spent most of their time chasing rabbits and hares with their lurcher dogs and scratched a living by burglary and theft.

The trio had insisted they had no idea that PC Harper was trapped behind the car but a macabre re-enactment of the incident with a mannequin showed they must have known the officer was being dragged to his death. 

During the trial Long, Bowers and Cole smirked and laughed as details of PC Harper’s horrific death were read to the jury.

Thomas King, 21, of Bramley, Hampshire, earlier admitted conspiring to steal the quad bike belonging to Peter Wallis. He was jailed for two years. 

Long, Bowers and Cole remain convicted of manslaughter and their sentences were not changed. 

The ‘gentle giant country boy who loved his food’: How newlywed PC Andrew Harper was dragged to death four hours after his shift was meant to end because of his determination to help and protect the public

Mark Duell for MailOnline 

He was ‘the gentle giant with a heart of gold’.

The ‘country boy’ who loved his food.

The newlywed police officer who died in the line of duty – more than four hours after his shift was due to finish – because he had a hardwired determination to help and protect.

Andrew Harper and his childhood sweetheart Lissie should have been spending the end of summer 2019 on honeymoon in the Maldives.

Andrew Harper and Lissie should have been spending the end of summer 2019 on honeymoon in the Maldives

Andrew Harper and Lissie should have been spending the end of summer 2019 on honeymoon in the Maldives

Instead, the new Mrs Harper was left facing the rest of her life without her partner of 13 years, after he was killed while responding to an emergency call on August 15 – four weeks after the pair tied the knot.

Andrew Harper was born on March 22 1991, to parents Philip and Debbie, and grew up in Wallingford, Oxfordshire, a big brother to siblings Sean and Aimee.

He joined Thames Valley Police as a 19-year-old in 2010, first as a special constable and then as a full-time regular officer the following year.

He was more than 6ft tall, weighed 14 stone, and had size 14 feet.

But his kind and selfless demeanour saw him described by his wife at his funeral service as ‘a gentle giant with a heart of gold’.

‘Our superman, our bodyguard, our light in the dark,’ Mrs Harper said in a tribute to her husband days after his death.

‘My God, we will miss you. Forever you will be remembered as the best of us.’

Lissie Harper posted a message on Facebook six days ago, which was one year on from her wedding to PC Harper. In it, she said: 'I am alone in utter disbelief'

Lissie Harper posted a message on Facebook six days ago, which was one year on from her wedding to PC Harper. In it, she said: ‘I am alone in utter disbelief’

Together, the couple enjoyed spending time outdoors, going on long walks and bike rides, and exploring new places.

At the time of his death, PC Harper was raising money for children with cancer, setting an initial sponsorship target of £500 for his participation in a 20-mile obstacle course.

Mrs Harper was left facing the rest of her life without her partner of 13 years, after he was killed on August 15 last year

Mrs Harper was left facing the rest of her life without her partner of 13 years, after he was killed on August 15 last year

Within weeks of his death, the total exceeded £300,000.

Colleagues recalled PC Harper’s love of food, infectious smile and sense of humour.

His colleague, Pc Jordan Johnstone, told mourners at the 28-year-old’s funeral: ‘I remember Harps’ first day … He arrived in the office with a clean white hat, shiny boots and an incredible range of Tupperware.

‘We laughed, we joked and we never stopped smiling.’

But there was a serious side to PC Harper, demonstrated by him and his colleague deciding to respond to reports of a burglary in Bradfield Southend in Berkshire at 11.17pm on August 15 2019.

Prosecutor Jonathan Laidlaw told jurors that ‘despite it being well beyond the end of their shift, and because they were close and thought they could help’, the duo offered to attend the scene.

Mr Laidlaw described it as ‘going beyond the call of duty’.

It was to be PC Harper’s final case.

The depth of hurt caused by PC Harper’s death reverberated across Thames Valley Police, with officers forming an almost guard of honour as members of the jury visited the crime scene.

And so raw was the emotion for the family that jurors were not told about PC Harper’s status as a newlywed in case the weight of a widow’s grief was detrimental to the defendants.

Instead, members of PC Harper’s family watched on as three teenagers described their respective involvements in the death. 

Hare-coursing, attacking homes with fireworks and thievery: How illiterate cop-killing travellers brazenly documented their law-breaking on Facebook

Henry Long, 19, and his passengers Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers, both 18, are facing years in jail for manslaughter over the death of PC Andrew Harper.

Newlywed PC Harper, 28, became entangled in a tow rope attached to their Seat Toledo as he tried to apprehend them in Berkshire last August. 

The teenagers admitted plotting the theft and Long pleaded guilty to manslaughter but each denied knowing that PC Harper was there.

All three were cleared of murder by an Old Bailey jury which had deliberated for more than 12 hours, but Cole and Bowers were found guilty of manslaughter.

Here is a profile on each the killers, revealing how they documented their law-breaking in Facebook posts of hare-coursing and attacking homes with fireworks:

HENRY LONG (driver)

Fast and Furious loving driver: Illiterate hell-raiser, 19, with string of juvenile offences for violence and drunken disorder

Henry Long, 19, was taken out of school by his father after he got into trouble with teachers

Henry Long, 19, was taken out of school by his father after he got into trouble with teachers 

Unable to read or write, Henry Long, 19, was taken out of school by his father after he got into trouble with teachers.

Aged 12 he followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather and began thieving, he told the jury.

Specialising in stealing quad-bikes and machinery, Long carried with him tools for breaking into sheds, and snapping metal chains and padlocks.

The career thief first spotted the quad-bike and drove the getaway car which dragged PC Andrew Harper to his death. He had a reputation among travellers as a good driver able to steer vehicles at break-neck speeds.

With the help of Albert Bowers and Jessie Cole, both 18, he disguised his Seat Toledo by disabling the rear lights, covering the number plates with tape and removing any logos. Long was the ringleader, telling Bowers and Cole to ‘shut up’ and ‘turn the music up’ as he drove.

In cross examination Long came ‘perilously close’ to admitting he was enjoying the chase as it went on knowing PC Harper was being dragged behind him. 

He tried to convince jurors that, had he known the officer was behind him, he would have stopped and tried to save him.

While sat in the dock he laughed with Bowers and Cole as details of the horrific death were read out which reduced PC Harper’s widow to tears. At first he told the police: ‘I do not give a f*** about any of this’ when they arrested him for murder.

He lied and claimed he was watching Fast and Furious all night. But police managed to trace his mobile phone to the scene forcing him to change his story.

Throughout the trial he argued he could not hear or feel anything behind the car. Long has four convictions for five offences, all as a juvenile. He is convicted of two charges of battery, two counts of being drunk and disorderly and a further two offences of shop lifting.

ALBERT BOWERS (passenger)

Accomplice with passion for blood-sport: Racist thug, 18, who posed with dead hares on Facebook and fell asleep during trial 

Albert Bowers, 18, fell asleep in the trial when the prosecution were show footage of the officer being dragged to his death

Albert Bowers, 18, fell asleep in the trial when the prosecution were show footage of the officer being dragged to his death

Albert Bowers, 18, has a keen interest in the blood sport hare coursing.

Photographs from his Facebook account show the teenager holding pictures up of dead hares killed by his sighthound.

He had turned to waiting photographers and started to laugh following one of his first appearances at Reading Magistrates’ Court after the killing.

Even when PC Harper’s body was described as being like a ‘dear carcass’ Bowers, Long and Cole continued smirking in the dock.

His attention span lasted only 40 minutes and at one stage he fell asleep in the trial when the prosecution were show footage of the officer being dragged to his death.

In evidence he said he could not read or write and had to be supported by an intermediary. He left school in year six and occasionally worked as a landscape gardener while supporting himself by stealing.

Jurors heard he and Long were close friends who often went out together looking for property to take. They both knew the nearby roads well and used this knowledge of the terrain to try and evade the police.

Bowers has three convictions for five offences while a juvenile. 

He has been convicted of one count of criminal damage, one charge of sexual assault by touching, one offence of possessing an offensive weapon, one conviction for battery and one for a racially aggravated public order offence.

JESSIE COLE (passenger)

Tree-cutter, 18, who left school only able to spell his own name needed help from intermediary while he gave evidence at trial 

Jessie Cole, 18, cannot read or write and left school aged 14

Jessie Cole, 18, cannot read or write and left school aged 14

Jessie Cole, 18, claimed he had only recently met Bowers and Long.

He claimed he went out thieving with them and not on his own because he was scared.

Like the other two he cannot read or write and left school aged 14. He attended a college for boys with learning difficulties and by the time he dropped out he could just spell his name.

Since then he worked with his father as a tree-cutter in Reading, Basingstoke and the Isle of Wight earning up to £70 a day. In the weeks before the killing he worked with his father on the island before returning to live with his mother.

His parents had separated when he was 18-months-old. Cole said he was closer to his mother than his father. As with Bowers he was helped by an intermediary as he gave evidence.

Cole claimed he did not see PC Harper chasing him but dash-cam footage from the pursuing police car shows him turning towards the officer before he jumped through the Toledo window. He has no previous convictions.

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