Reports say the three killers’ legal teams were awarded £465,000 combined for their cases
The teenagers were cleared of PC Harper’s murder but jailed for manslaughter
Widow Lissie Harper has been campaigning for life sentences for those who kill emergency workers
She is critical of the terms given to the killers, ranging from 16 to 13 years behind bars.
A prominent legal commentator explained why the three teenagers were granted the money
The widow of PC Andrew Harper has said she is “horrified” to learn of the six-figure legal aid sum paid to the lawyers representing her husband’s killers.
According to the Daily Mail, the solicitors and barristers who defended the three teenagers convicted of the Thames Valley Police officer’s manslaughter received £465,000.
Legal aid is the provision given to people who cannot afford to pay for a lawyer to ensure they are given a fair trial.
Henry Long, 19, was given 16 years in prison, while Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers, both 18, were each handed 13-year sentences, after they were cleared of murder.
PC Harper was dragged for more than a mile, suffering catastrophic injuries and dying at the scene.
The Daily Mail reported that Long’s legal team was given £169,175, while Bowers’ was paid £131,696 and Cole’s £164,898.
Speaking about the sum awarded for their legal aid, his widow, Lissie Harper, told the Daily Mail: “It saddens me – but does not surprise me – that so much public money has been and continues to be spent on defending the indefensible.
“This just doesn’t seem right or fair.
“Andrew was my whole life. I have had to sit in a courtroom and witness the people who chose to take my husband’s life show no remorse.”
Lissie has been campaigning for Harper’s Law, which would introduce life sentences for those who kill emergency workers. She is set to meet home secretary Priti Patel in September.
The teenagers’ sentences have been referred for being “unduly lenient” by attorney general Suella Braverman.
Bowers and Cole are seeking permission to challenge their convictions.
How does legal aid work?
Legal aid is used to help meet the costs of receiving legal advice and representation in court for those who can’t afford to pay for a lawyer, the government’s website states.
Applicants need to show they are cannot afford to pay for help, and aid can also be given to people who could become homeless or are at risk of abuse, such as domestic violence or forced marriage.
In some instances, applicants may have to pay some money towards their legal costs or pay money back at a later date.
A prominent legal commentator and author who tweets anonymously as The Secret Barrister, has criticised the coverage of the sum and explained how the sum was reached.
4. £465k sounds like a lot out of context. But the figures are gross, not net. Solicitors’ firms have staff to pay, business costs, rent, insurance, tax etc. Likewise barristers. When all that is broken down, what is the actual *profit* for these professionals?— The Secret Barrister (@BarristerSecret) August 27, 2020
6. Because this is is what it boils down to: if you are going to run a “news” story decrying the cost of legal aid, you should be able to give full context to show why it’s too much, and what sum would have been reasonable.— The Secret Barrister (@BarristerSecret) August 27, 2020
Of course, he doesn’t.
The commentator goes on to point out that anyone accused of a criminal offence has the right to a fair trial, and it is unfair “if the prosecution has lawyers and the accused does not”.
They said attacks on legal aid “cause irreparable damage not only to public understanding, but to people’s lives”.
“Here’s why we defend the indefensible: because everybody - you, me, the people we fear and hate most - has the right to a defence if accused of a crime,” the lawyer said.