PC Harper: Nick Ferrari challenges criminal barrister over killers' sentence length

1 December 2020, 10:12

By Fiona Jones

Nick Ferrari challenges criminal barrister Chris Daw QC who vehemently disagrees that the "very very heavy" sentence for PC Harper's killers should be extended to a life sentence.

The driver of a car which dragged PC Andrew Harper to his death should be given a life sentence, the attorney general has told the Court of Appeal.

Suella Braverman QC argued that the teenagers' sentences were "unduly lenient" after the driver, Henry Long, was jailed for 16 years, and passengers Albert Bowers and Jessie Cole were both sentenced to 13 years each.

Yet criminal barrister Chris Daw QC vehemently disagreed with Ms Braverman, pointing out that these sentences are "incredibly long" for manslaughter, "some of the longest that I've ever heard."

"I'm afraid the attorney general is acting politically and she's really not doing justice to her office as the attorney general which is supposed to be independent of politics," Mr Daw said, pointing out that while he has huge sympathy for PC Harper's widow and her family, "we don't have sentencing by the victim in this country."

Mr Daw observed that as this was a manslaughter case, no intention to kill or to cause bodily harm, the sentence the boys already have "is a very very heavy sentence indeed."

"If you gave life means life to everyone that killed an emergency service worker, there will be no difference to the number of emergency service workers killed, it doesn't bring people back.

"This clamour for long sentences every time there's a tragic case of this kind is why we're in the problem we're in. Why the prisons are overcrowded and full, why rates of crime are going up and up, because prison doesn't work."

Mr Daw said England's criminal justice policy "has relied on ever-increasing prison sentences and ignored the need to deal with young people when they enter the criminal justice system, often as children, and divert them away from crime."

He said that England criminalises children from the age of ten, and had the killers of PC Harper been "dealt with in a different way" earlier in life when they had run into problems with the law, this may never have happened.

"When we punish [children] as criminals, unsurprisingly they behave like criminals," Mr Daw said, "do we really think that someone is too young to vote but they're old enough at the age of ten to be treated as a murderer?"

Of the driver Henry Long's 16 year sentence, Mr Daw asked "what was the point of it": "The focus of the sentence should not be locking someone up for as long as possible, it should be to stop them from committing crime in the future."

Nick asked of PC Harper's widow, Lissie Harper, who is pushing for cross-party support for life sentences for those who kill emergency workers in the name of her late husband.

Mr Daw responded, "We don't have private criminal justice, if victims decided to sentence in every criminal case, I'm sure many cases would result in catastrophically over-sentenced defendants...because of the personal and understandable grief of the victims."