Three teenagers who killed Pc Andrew Harper in the line of duty as he responded to a late night burglary have been given 16 and 13-year jail terms, as the judge ruled out the suggestion jurors cleared them of murder due to “improper pressure”.
Henry Long, 19, and 18-year-olds Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers, were acquitted of murder at the end of their Old Bailey trial earlier this month, prompting the victim’s widow Lissie Harper to appeal to the Government for a retrial.
The teenagers were sentenced at the same court on Friday, where Long – the getaway driver in the vehicle which dragged Pc Harper to his death down a winding country road last August – was handed a 16-year sentence for manslaughter.
Cole, who sprinted past the outstretched grasp of Pc Harper to climb into the getaway vehicle as it made off, was jailed for 13 years for the same offence.
Similarly Bowers, also a passenger on that fateful night, was jailed for 13 years.
Sentencing the trio, who are members of the travelling community, Mr Justice Edis said: “Nothing which I can do, or could have done, if there had been a conviction for murder, can restore Andrew Harper to his loving wife and family or to the public he served so well.
“His devastating loss in these terrible circumstances will follow his family forever.”
He described them as “young, unintelligent but professional criminals”.
The judge also took the unusual step of addressing “controversy” over the verdicts.
He said: “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.”
The judge 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 Harper’s family were present in court as the sentences were handed down. Some members of the jury also returned, to an adjoining courtroom, to follow the proceedings on videolink.
Addressing the court in person, Mrs Harper broke down as she described her future being “robbed” by the teenagers.