Three teenagers who dragged a police officer for more than a mile to his death have been sentenced for his manslaughter.
Driver Long was today sentenced to 16 years in prison for manslaughter, and the passengers were both sentenced to 13 years each.
The teenagers hugged each other last week after being cleared of murder, as pictures showed them grinning outside court following earlier hearings.
Addressing the court in London, Judge Mr Justice Edis said: ‘Manslaughter cases range greatly in seriousness.
‘Sometimes death may be caused by an act of gross carelessness, sometimes it is very close to a case of murder in its seriousness. That is so, here.’
He described the killers as ‘young, unintelligent but professional criminals’, saying none of them had ‘any real education’ and had been ‘taken out of school far too young’.
‘I reject the contention that any of you has shown remorse,’ he added.
‘In better language, you killed a talented and brave young police officer who was going above and beyond his duty in order to provide a public service.
‘You did so because you have deliberately decided to expose any police officer that got in your way to a risk of death.’
Mr Justice Edis also took the unusual step of addressing ‘controversy’ over the jury’s decision to find the three teenagers not guilty of murder, amid concerns they were being subject to ‘improper pressure’.
‘These verdicts have caused some controversy,’ he said.
‘I have deliberately avoided reading or viewing reports of the case and comment on it, because I have a duty to do justice in accordance with the law and the evidence which I have heard.
‘However, I have been made aware that there has been some discussion about the trial and, in particular, the measures which were in place for the protection of the jury.
‘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.’
‘My family and I feel broken’
The prosecutor read a victim impact statement from PC Harper’s mother, Deborah Adlam.
She said: ‘He died because these defendants chose to steal a quad bike. My family and I feel broken – can you imagine a loved one dying with such indignity?
‘He was our first-born child and he has been ripped from me. I haven’t been able to work for fear of breaking down, my mind just isn’t in the right place, my anxiety is overpowering.
‘Andrew was such a good man, a brave, a caring person, funny and uplifting. I love and miss him daily with every passing moment. He will be loved forever.’
‘A lost and endless world’
Lissie Harper, the widow of PC Andrew Harper, read her victim impact statement to the court herself.
She said: ‘This is my third attempt at writing a statement. I simply find myself in a lost and endless world.
‘I have used every word possible to describe this torture – indescribable trauma I have been forced to endure these past 11 months. I have cried and broken down.
‘They took more than one life away that day, they stole the person I used to be. Every ounce of beautiful peace gone.
‘In answer to the question: how has Andrew’s death impacted me? You can be satisfied I am now a shadow of the person I once was. Broken, distraught, beaten, a void, an empty shell.’
The trial heard how the teenagers were determined to escape from officers ‘at all costs’ after attempting to steal a £10,000 quad bike from a house in Stanford Dingley, Berkshire.
Newlywed PC Harper, 28, was one of two Thames Valley Police officers who responded to the theft, on the evening of August 15 last year.
But after getting out of his patrol car to chase after a suspect, his ankles became entangled in a crane strap attached to the boot of Long’s Seat Toledo.
Long drove off at ‘breakneck’ speed, dragging the officer for more than a mile along winding country lanes.
The trial had heard how the officer was ‘swung side-to-side like a pendulum in an effort to dislodge him’ and suffered ‘the most appalling of injuries’. He died on the road in the line of duty.
The teenagers admitted plotting the quad bike theft and Long pleaded guilty to manslaughter, but each denied knowing that PC Harper was attached to the car.
Their defence claimed the incident was a ‘freak event’ that none of them could have planned or foreseen.
But the prosecution argued the defendants were aware that PC Harper, who was more than 6ft tall and weighed 14 stone, was being dragged to his death.
Defence barrister Rossano Scamardella QC said today Long had ‘accepted responsibility’ for his role in the officer’s death.
Mr Scamardella told the Old Bailey it had been reported in the press that all of the defendants were ‘badly behaved’ during the trial.
He said: ‘Henry Long, we do not agree behaved badly during the trial. What we do remember from the trial is Henry Long’s remorse about what he felt. We suggest his remorse is genuine.’
Speaking outside court after the verdicts last week, widowed Mrs Harper described being ‘utterly shocked and appalled’ following the verdicts.
She then posted an open letter on her Facebook page on Tuesday evening, urging the Prime Minister, Home Secretary Priti Patel and Lord Blunkett to call for a retrial and ‘right such a despicable wrong for our country’.
She wrote: ‘I implore you to hear my words, see the facts that are laid out before us, and I ask with no expectations other than hope that you might help me to make these changes be considered, to ensure that Andrew is given the retrial that he unquestionably deserves and to see that the justice system in our country is the solid ethical foundation that it rightly should be.
‘Not the joke that so many of us now view it to be.’
Speaking outside the court after sentencing, detective superintendent Stuart Blaik from Thames Valley Police said: ‘Today we have seen justice for Andrew Harper and his family.
‘These men [the defendants] represented self-interest, greed and utter recklessness.
‘These are three people who I do not believe have ever shown an ounce of genuine remorse or contrition for their actions, and who did their best to frustrate the police investigation.’
He also addressed the controversy which has accompanied the verdicts of not-guilty in relation to the murder counts.
‘I am aware there has been much discussion amongst the media and the public about those verdicts, but today I welcome the judge’s sentencing remarks,’ he said.
‘These were fully reflective of the seriousness of this offence and their culpability.’
He added: ‘We will always remember PC Andrew Harper and we will never forget the ultimate sacrifice he made when protecting the public from these selfish and reckless criminals.’
The first trial was abandoned the day the nation went into lockdown in March, while for the retrial Mr Justice Edis ordered extra security measures amid fears of potential juror intimidation by supporters of the defendants.
In June, a fresh jury was sworn in to hear the case in another courtroom which had been adapted for social distancing.
A female juror was discharged just a day before the remaining 11 started deliberating on their verdicts, after she was seen by a prison officer to mouth, ‘Bye boys’ to the teenagers in the dock.
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