Pc Andrew Harper’s killing was “as serious a case of manslaughter as it is possible to envisage”, the Attorney General has told the Court of Appeal.
Henry Long, 19, was jailed for 16 years and 18-year-olds Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers were each jailed for 13 years in July over the death of the Thames Valley Police traffic officer.
Pc Harper, 28, was caught in a crane 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 Pc Harper’s manslaughter, while Cole and Bowers, both passengers on that fateful night, were convicted of manslaughter after a trial at the Old Bailey.
All three were cleared of Pc Harper’s murder by the jury, which deliberated for more than 12 hours.
At the Court of Appeal in London on Monday, Attorney General Suella Braverman said Long’s sentence did not reflect “the seriousness of the offence”, which was “as serious a case of manslaughter as it is possible to envisage”.
She told Dame Victoria Sharp, Lord Justice Holroyde and Mr Justice William Davis: “Pc Harper paid the ultimate price for his bravery and this should be reflected in the sentence.”
Referring to Long’s sentence, Mrs Braverman said: “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?”
She added that, if the court found Long’s sentence was unduly lenient, Bowers and Cole’s sentences “should also have been commensurately longer”.
Mrs Braverman also said the sentencing judge “accorded too great a reduction” to Bowers and Cole’s sentences “for their age and learning difficulties”.
In written submissions, Mrs Braverman said of all three: “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.”
But Rossano Scamardella QC, representing Long, said Mrs Braverman’s comments about “widespread public concern” should have “no influence on the issue of whether this sentence ought to be adjusted one way or the other”.
He said: “Widespread public concern is not necessarily an indicator that something has gone wrong, either with a verdict or a sentence.”
Mr Scamardella told the court that Pc Harper’s death was the result of “a freakish accident” after he became attached to the back of the car, adding: “There was no intentional application of force or violence… there was no intent whatsoever to cause serious bodily harm or death.”
The barrister said there was public concern expressed following the acquittals for murder and that the “narrative became that no jury would possibly” have cleared them unless there was some sort of “tampering”.
He added: “This became such an important issue that the learned judge dealt with it as a preamble to his sentencing remarks, such was his displeasure at the way it had been reported.”
Lawyers representing Bowers and Cole are also asking for permission to appeal against the length of their sentences, arguing that they are too long.
Timothy Raggatt QC, representing Bowers, said: “The idea that these sentences could be described as unduly lenient… is, to be blunt, far-fetched in the extreme.”
Long, Cole and Bowers appeared by video link from HMP Belmarsh at the hearing on Monday morning.
Pc Harper and his wife Lissie had been married for just four weeks when he and a Thames Valley Police colleague responded to a late-night burglary in Sulhamstead, Berkshire, in August last year.
Mrs Harper has since campaigned for Harper’s Law, which would mean those who kill emergency workers are jailed for life, and met Home Secretary Priti Patel and Justice Secretary Robert Buckland earlier this month.
At their trial, the trio’s defence claimed the incident was a “freak event” that none of them could have planned or foreseen.
But the prosecution said the defendants must have been aware that Pc Harper – at more than 6ft and weighing 14 stone – was being dragged to his death.
It is not known if the court will give a ruling on Monday afternoon or reserve its judgment to a later date.