Three senior judges threw out Attorney General Suella Braverman’s challenge that jail terms handed to the three thugs were “unduly lenient”. Grieving Lissie Harper told of her dismay at the decision and said it means “these criminals will see the light of day far, far earlier than they ever deserve to”. Mrs Harper, who had been married to her husband for only four weeks before he was killed in the line of duty, added: “I continue to feel let down by our justice system and the inadequate laws that we have in place.”
She is campaigning for a Harper’s Law, backed by the Daily Express, to ensure the killers of police and emergency services workers are jailed for life.
Following the judgment, the Attorney General’s spokesman said she believed the sentences should be longer but respected the decision of the Court of Appeal.
It emerged yesterday that lawyers representing the three killers have so far been paid £726,248 in legal aid. The total bill will rise when the cost of launching their appeals against convictions and sentence is taken into account.
PC Harper, 28, was killed while investigating a burglary in a remote part of Berkshire in August last year.
After challenging the three young thieves in a dark country lane, his feet were caught in a crane strap hanging from the boot of their getaway car as they sped off.
He was dragged for more than a mile as the car swerved from side to side and died of appalling injuries.
There was disbelief at the Old Bailey in July when driver Henry Long and his henchmen Albert Bowers and Jessie Cole were cleared of murder.
Long had admitted manslaughter, while Bowers and Cole were found guilty of that offence.
Speaking outside court, Mrs Harper said the verdicts had left her “utterly shocked and appalled” and described the actions of the killers as “senseless, barbaric and brutal”.
A week later, Mr Justice Edis sentenced the three killers, saying they had committed a “wicked” crime almost as serious as a deliberate murder.
Long, 19, was jailed for 16 years and Bowers and Cole, both 18, were each jailed for 13 years. Mr Justice Edis ordered them to serve two-thirds of their sentences in custody before they can be released on licence.
All three had already served 12 months behind bars while awaiting trial, meaning Long will be free in 2030, aged 29. Bowers and Cole will be released in 2028 when they will be 26. Amid widespread public concern, the Attorney General urged the Court of Appeal to increase the sentences.
At a hearing last month, she told the court PC Harper had “paid the ulitmate price for his bravery” and that should be reflected in the length of time his killers spend in jail.
His killing was “as serious a case of manslaughter as it is possible to envisage,” Ms Braverman argued. She said that Long – the ringleader and driver – “was and remains dangerous” and deserved a life sentence.
In their judgment yesterday, Dame Victoria Sharp, Lord Justice Holroyde and Mr Justice William Davis said PC Harper’s family had the “profound sympathy of the nation”.
But they ruled that “mere disagreement” with the sentencing judge’s decisions “provides neither a ground for finding the sentencing to have been unduly lenient nor a ground for finding a sentence to have been wrong in principle or manifestly excessive”.
The judges also rejected appeals from the three killers that their sentences should be reduced and dismissed their challenges as “wholly unarguable”.
Dame Victoria said: “They were severe sentences for such young offenders, but the applicants had committed a grave crime and their punishments were deserved.”
Long and Bowers, of Mortimer, Reading, and Cole, of Aldermaston, Berkshire, are currently serving time in HMP Belmarsh, south London.