Was Justice Served for PC Andrew Harper?
Dragged behind a car for a mile by three perpetrators.
Newly married PC Andrew Harper was a 28 year old, with his life in front of him, when he was brutally killed. Dragged behind a car for over one mile, he died of his injuries at the scene.
Three teenagers were charged with his manslaughter on 31st July. The conviction has caused a public outcry in Britain. Was justice served for PC Andrew Harper?
At 23:17 on 15th August 2019, the Thames Valley police received a 999 call reporting a burglary in process. A group of young men were attempting to steal a quad bike. Harper and fellow policeman Andrew Shaw responded to the call in their unmarked BMW.
When they arrived a SEAT Toledo was attempting to tow a quad bike away. Harper who was the passenger at the time got out of the BMW and approached the car. In doing so he got his foot caught in the strap that had been holding the quad bike.
No longer towing the bike the suspects drove off, at high speed to avoid being caught. As they raced away Harper was dragged behind them attached to the vehicle.
The suspects would later claim they had no idea he was attached to the car. Autopsy reports would later state that Harper suffered a severe brain injury. A pathologist stated he lost consciousness as soon as his head hit the ground. He was unable to free himself. It is entirely plausible that the perpetrators did not hear or see anything.
After being dragged for one mile behind the car, Harper became disentangled. He was found by another colleague responding to the incident. He was pronounced dead by paramedics at 2345.
Catching the Perpetrators
The police acted fast on information they had and by 0050 on 16th August, they had 10 suspects in custody. These men ranged from 13 years old to 20.
On the 18th of September, three men were charged with Harper’s murder. Henry Long who was 18 and 17 years old Albert Bowers and Jessie Cole.
The murder trial for the three men started on March 10th 2020. Both Bowers and Cole pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal a quad bike, but not guilty to manslaughter. Long, the driver at the time pleaded guilty to stealing the quad bike and manslaughter. All three denied the murder charges brought against them.
On 13th March all parties agreed, that contrary to what had been reported, the defendants did not strike the victim with their car. As the country went into lockdown, the trial was abandoned. A retrial began on 23rd June.
On the 20th of July, the case was again disrupted when a juror was excused for mouthing ‘bye boys’ to the defendants. Twenty-four hours later the eleven members of the jury started deliberating. Returning three days later, where they cleared all three of murder but charged them with manslaughter.
When the judge passed sentence he stated the boys were considered minors, when they committed the crime. For this reason, he sentenced Long to sixteen years and Bower and Cole to 13 years. Ten years is the average sentence for manslaughter in the UK.
Harper’s wife has started a campaign to state that attacks on emergency service workers should carry a greater punishment. Recent criticism over the level of violence used by police, this has divided the country. Harper’s Law is a petition to change the sentencing in the UK.
On 4th August the Attorney General referred the case to the court of appeal. She stated the sentences were too lenient. The age of the defendants should have no consideration for the sentencing. She also backed the opinion, that attacks against emergency workers should carry a higher punishment.
On 20th August both Bowers and Cole appealed their sentences for manslaughter.
Although a tragic incident the facts remain the same. Neither Bowers nor Cole were directly responsible for Harper’s death, as they were not driving. The three boys could have driven away, unaware that Harper was attached to the car. Harper became trapped due to an accident, not malicious intent. However, the boys had gone out intending to steal a quad bike. They had also caused Harper’s death by fleeing the scene.
Will the appeals court reduce or increase the sentence of the three boys? The public will now wait for the decision as to whether ultimately justice will be served or not. It is a justice that some will agree with and some will not, regardless of the result.