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Saturday, 25 July 2020

'You robbed a hero of his life': PC Andrew Harper's widow tells of shock after 'barbaric' travellers who dragged him to death were cleared of murder and says: 'I have a life sentence to bear... more painful than a meagre number of years in prison'

PC Andrew Harper's widow Lissie today said she was 'immensely disappointed' that the three teenagers who killed her husband were cleared of murder, describing the crime as 'barbaric', and that she now faces a 'life sentence' that is 'more painful' and 'soul destroying' than a 'meagre number of years in prison.'
Henry Long, Albert Bowers and Jessie Cole, who are all travellers, hugged each other as they were cleared of murdering the police officer by dragging him to his death behind their car - but were convicted of manslaughter.
Speaking outside the Old Bailey in London this afternoon, Ms Harper said: 'The way in which Andrew was robbed of his life we all know to be barbaric and inexplicable. I am immensely disappointed with the verdict given today.   
'I now have my own life sentence to bear and believe me when I say it will be a lot more painful, soul destroying and painful journey than anyone facing a meagre number of years in prison will experience.' 
 'No verdict or sentence will ever bring my incredible, selfless and heroic husband back. The results from this trial I had hoped would bring justice but in reality make no difference to the heart-wrenching pain I will continue to feel for the rest of my life. 
'Andrew served in Thames Valley Police with honour. He went out night after night risking his life for the safety and the wellbeing of the innocent as all police officers do with passion. Ultimately he laid down his life for us all and it pains me more than I can ever explain that this has not been appreciated by the very people who should have seen his heroic and selfless duty as so many other members of the public - total strangers - clearly do. 
PC Harper, 28, had tried to stop the thieves stealing a quad bike and his ankles were lassoed by the trailing loading strap as the teenagers tried to escape in Sulhamstead, Berkshire, in August last year.
For over a mile he was towed helplessly behind the Seat Toledo by his feet as the car reached speeds of up to 60mph with driver Long, 19, swerving violently to try and release the stricken officer. 
Ms Harper added today: 'Myself and Andrew's family will never come to terms with our new lives, we will never understand how such a beautiful, loving, decent human being could be dealt this fate. 
'Myself and our family will spend the rest of our days missing him, loving him and being utterly proud of the incredible man that he was. We will never forget the kindness that we as a family have received from all who have supported us over the last year - friends, family and total strangers and the almighty unity of the thin blue line. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.' 
Long and his two friends Bowers and Cole, both 18, were all accused of murder but convicted only of manslaughter and were seen joyfully embracing each other via a videolink from HMP Belmarsh in London.
Their families cheered as the verdict was announced - but PC Harper's wife Lissie sobbed in court. The three killers had laughed and joked with each other during the trial and when Long was charged he said he 'didn't give a f***.'
Meanwhile it can now be reported that the jury were given special protection by police because detectives believed associates of the defendants were planning to intimidate them.
PC Andrew Harper and his wife Lissie celebrating their wedding at Ardington House in Oxfordshire in summer 2019
PC Andrew Harper and his wife Lissie celebrating their wedding at Ardington House in Oxfordshire in summer 2019
Lissie Harper (centre, in white), the widow of PC Harper, outside the Old Bailey in London this afternoon. She said she was 'immensely disappointed' that the three teenagers were cleared of murder, describing the crime as 'barbaric'
Lissie Harper (centre, in white), the widow of PC Harper, outside the Old Bailey in London this afternoon. She said she was 'immensely disappointed' that the three teenagers were cleared of murder, describing the crime as 'barbaric'
Albert Bowers (left) and Jessie Cole (centre) leaving Reading Magistrates' Court on September 19, 2019
Albert Bowers (left) and Jessie Cole (centre) leaving Reading Magistrates' Court on September 19, 2019
Albert Bowers arriving at Reading Magistrates' Court on September 19, 2019 for an appearance over PC Harper's death
Albert Bowers arriving at Reading Magistrates' Court on September 19, 2019 for an appearance over PC Harper's death
Police mugshots of (left to right), driver Henry Long, 19, and his passengers Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers, both 18
Police mugshots of (left to right), driver Henry Long, 19, and his passengers Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers, both 18

PC Harper had married just four weeks before he was flayed alive by the surface of Admoor Lane and the obstacles at the side of it.

Parts of his body including his face were destroyed and the details of the opening of the trial were so terrible that his family took the unprecedented step of asking the media not to report them.
When the body was discovered by his colleagues after he had fallen away from the sling he was completely naked except for his socks.
A snaking trail of blood behind him marked the course of his body down the lane. His widow was joined in court by his parents Phil Harper and Debbie Adlam and his brother Sean.
Long admitted manslaughter but was acquitted of murder. Bowers and Cole were convicted of manslaughter after the jury deliberated for 12 hours and 22 minutes to decide.
Jurors who were visibly shocked by the details of the case had been offered counselling before the trial began.
All the police officers involved in the discovery of his body were also advised to seek help to deal with the trauma of the case.
When he was arrested at the Four Houses Corner travellers site in Ufton Nervet, Berkshire, Long claimed he had been watching a Fast and Furious DVD at the time of the killing.
He complained police were unfairly targeting travellers and said: 'I don't give a f*** about any of this,' when he was charged.
Long, Bowers and Cole, spent most of their time chasing rabbits and hares with their lurcher dogs and scratched a living by burglary and theft.
They had spotted the Honda TRX500 quad bike at the home of Peter Wallis, near Cock Lane, in the village of Bradfield Southend, earlier on August 15 and returned at around 11pm to steal it.
All of them were wearing balaclavas and gloves and they had taped over the car's number plate and disabled the rear lights.
The killers were armed with an axe, crowbars and a length of pipe to use against anyone who tried to stop them.
Mr Wallis called the police saw them taking the bike and hitching the handlebars to the back of the car with the sling.
Long drove off with Bowers in the passenger seat and Cole riding the bike.
PC Harper was in an unmarked BMW with PC Andrew Shaw and was due to finish his shift at 7pm.
The officers were on duty that night in the Reading area and were heading back to their base station at Abingdon when they heard of the incident on the radio and responded to the call.
It was a decision that was to cost PC Harper his life.
When they drove down Admoor Lane they came nose to nose with the Seat going the other way.
The travellers quickly realised it was a police car and Cole unhitched the bike and tried to get to the Seat as it rounded the police car to drive away.
PC Harper jumped out to try and stop Cole getting into the car but he managed to dive in through the passenger side window.
As the car sped away dragging the sling, PC Harper's feet became entangled. Mercifully, he was likely to have been rendered unconscious almost immediately.
PC Shaw had no idea what had happened to his colleague and expected to find him further up the road. But as he reversed up the lane he found PC Harper's shredded and bloodied stab vest lying in the road.
Long knew he was dragging the officer and with the music blaring and his friends screaming at him, he tried to free PC Harper by zig zagging along the lane.
By the time the officer fell away from the car at the end of Ufton Lane his body was a 'bloodied mess'.
A police officer who saw the incident thought PC Harper's body was a deer carcass.
The Seat sped away to the travellers site causing other road users to drive into the verge to avoid a collision.
It was tracked by a police helicopter and the travellers were arrested at the site.
Widow Lissie Harper 'shocked and appalled' with verdict
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CPS prosecutor Rebecca Waller: Thoughts are with Harper's family
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Lissie Harper said today that no verdict or sentence would 'ever bring my incredible, selfless and heroic husband back'
Lissie Harper said today that no verdict or sentence would 'ever bring my incredible, selfless and heroic husband back'

Long, Bowers and Cole all admitted conspiracy to steal a quad bike and Long admitted manslaughter.
They insisted they had no idea that PC Harper was trapped behind the car but a macabre re-enactment of the incident with a mannequin showed they must have known the officer was being dragged to his death.
During the trial Long, Bowers and Cole smirked and laughed as details of PC Harper's horrific death were read to the jury.
It can now be reported that Long had previously threatened to 'ram' a police officer as he chatted with a police community support officer (PCSO).
In the conversation in July 2018, ruled inadmissible during the trial, Long said: 'You can't touch me now 'cos I've passed my driving test and if police try to stop me I will ram them.'
Long and Bowers, both of Mortimer, Reading, and Cole, of Bramley, Hampshire, each denied murder and were acquitted.
They will be sentenced next Friday. 
Thomas King, 21, of Bramley, earlier admitted conspiring to steal the quad bike. 
Speaking outside court, Pc Andrew Harper's widow Lissie said: 'I honestly thought I would be addressing you after a very different verdict. I had planned to talk of the beautiful future Andrew and I had before us, I expected my words to be so very different and in all honesty I am for the second time in the space of one year utterly shocked and appalled.
'The decisions made in the these courts by strangers will never change the outcome that had already come to pass. For many, many agonising months we have hoped that justice would come in some way for Andrew.
'We have put our faith in the justice system and all who work within it.
'We have waited with bated breath and heavy hearts as the dedicated prosecution barristers and investigation team of Thames Valley Police officers have worked tirelessly and who we thank sincerely for all they have done, as they stood in our corner and fought to make sure these men were made to repent for their barbaric crimes.
'No verdict or sentence will ever bring my incredible, selfless and heroic husband back. 
'The results from this trial I had hoped would bring justice but in reality make no difference to the heart-wrenching pain I will continue to feel for the rest of my life.'
Ms Harper continued: 'Andrew was taken from us on that horrendous night last year and his life was stolen and the lives of his family and friends altered forever. 
'This crime, whatever the outcome deliberated over in court, was brutal and senseless.
'The way in which Andrew was robbed of his life we all know to be barbaric and inexplicable. I am immensely disappointed with the verdict given today.'
Speaking outside the Old Bailey, she said: 'Andrew served in Thames Valley Police with honour. 
'He went out night after night risking his life for the safety and the wellbeing of the innocent as all police officers do with passion.
'Ultimately he laid down his life for us all and it pains me more than I can ever explain that this has not been appreciated by the very people who should have seen his heroic and selfless duty as so many other members of the public - total strangers - clearly do. 
'Myself and Andrew's family will never come to terms with our new lives, we will never understand how such a beautiful, loving, decent human being could be dealt this fate.
'I now have my own life sentence to bear and believe me when I say it will be a lot more painful, soul destroying and painful journey than anyone facing a meagre number of years in prison will experience.'
The Seat Toledo with tow rope and the police car in a similar position at the site of the meeting of the vehicles during the Old Bailey jury site visit to the scene in Sulhamstead on July 1
The Seat Toledo with tow rope and the police car in a similar position at the site of the meeting of the vehicles during the Old Bailey jury site visit to the scene in Sulhamstead on July 1
Peter Wallis 999 call reporting thieves making off with quad bike
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The stolen quad bike is pictured during the Old Bailey jury site visit to the scene in Sulhamstead on July 1, 2020
The stolen quad bike is pictured during the Old Bailey jury site visit to the scene in Sulhamstead on July 1, 2020
Dashcam footage shows desperate search for PC Andrew Harper
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Ms Harper added: 'Myself and our family will spend the rest of our days missing him, loving him and being utterly proud of the incredible man that he was.

'We will never forget the kindness that we as a family have received from all who have supported us over the last year - friends, family and total strangers and the almighty unity of the thin blue line. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.'
Also speaking outside court, senior Crown prosecutor Rebecca Waller said the verdicts marked the end of an 'extremely difficult trial' for PC Harper's family, friends and colleagues.
She paid tribute to the officer's loved ones who had shown 'great strength, courage and integrity'.
She added: 'We are really pleased to say that the three people responsible for Pc Andrew Harper's death have been convicted.'
Jaswant Kaur Narwal, chief crown prosecutor for Thames and Chiltern, said: 'This is a truly heart-breaking case in which a young police officer with everything to look forward to tragically lost his life in the line of duty.
'He was killed trying to stop suspects who were prepared to go to any lengths to get away with their crime.'
She added: 'Our case quite simply was that the thieves were intent on causing serious harm to anyone who got in their way that August night and tragically this was what happened to PC Harper.
'It has been an emotional trial, and evidentially challenging, but I am pleased the jury has found all three culpable for PC Harper's death. 
'My thoughts remain with all of his family and his colleagues at Thames Valley Police.' 
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick tweeted: "Our thoughts are with Andrew's family and his colleagues and friends at this time."
Craig O'Leary, chairman of Thames Valley Police Federation, said: "The horrendous events of August 15 last year will never be forgotten by any Thames Valley Police officer.
"Pc Andrew Harper loved being a police officer. He loved being a Thames Valley Police officer. And today and every day his colleagues remember him as 'Harps', a brave hero killed on duty doing his job. He is still incredibly missed by many.
"Andrew should have been going home that summer night to his wife and looking forward to a long and loving marriage and a highly successful career. That was taken away from him by cowardly criminals who are not worthy of being named.
"On two occasions - due to the Covid-19 pandemic - Andrew's family, friends and colleagues have had to listen to heart-breaking evidence in the trial into his murder. At times it has been gruesome and incredibly difficult to hear. And we must pay tribute to the dignity and bravery Lissie and family have all shown throughout the two trials."
He added: "Despite the completely unwarranted negative publicity surrounding policing in this country at the moment, we must always remember that police officers go to work each and every day to fight crime and protect the public.
"Sadly on very rare and horrendous occasions a colleague makes the ultimate sacrifice. When that happens, we must ensure they are never forgotten - and in Thames Valley Police we shall never forget Andrew or his bravery that night.
"No police officer wants to have to investigate the killing of a colleague. And we must also today pay tribute to the incredible work of Thames Valley Police colleagues who painstakingly put together the evidence that has led to today's convictions."
It can also be reported a woman watching the PC Harper murder trial was barred from the Old Bailey over coronavirus fears before the lockdown.
CCTV of defendants standing trial over death of Pc Andrew Harper
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The unnamed person was heard coughing repeatedly in the public gallery as the first trial was opened by prosecutor Brian Altman QC on March 10.
The heavily pregnant woman absented herself from court and the area was cleaned in a break in proceedings.
Mr Justice Edis highlighted concerns from security staff and said he would 'err on the side of safety' and bar the woman from returning to court.
Speaking in the absence of the jury, the senior judge said the woman was a heavy smoker and there was unlikely to be a need to panic.
After lunch, the woman was allowed back in after a visit to a pharmacist confirmed it was only a cough.
Court 16 of the Central Criminal Court was full to capacity at the start of the high-profile case of Long, Cole and Bowers.
Lawyers, reporters and members of PC Harper's family packed into the well of the court with the defendants' relatives sitting separately in the public gallery.
The jury was told that more journalists, who could not get seats in court, were watching proceedings from a video link to another courtroom in the building.
As the nation went into lockdown on March 23, the trial was abandoned.
Police searching the scene on August 17, 2019 where PC Harper died in the village of Sulhamstead in Berkshire
Police searching the scene on August 17, 2019 where PC Harper died in the village of Sulhamstead in Berkshire
PC Andrew Harper was dragged behind a car after responding to a reported quad bike theft last August in Berkshire
PC Harper's widow Lissie Harper during his funeral at Christ Church Cathedral in St Aldate's, Oxford , on October 14, 2019
PC Andrew Harper (left) was dragged behind a car after responding to a reported quad bike theft last August in Berkshire. PC Harper's widow Lissie Harper (right) during his funeral at Christ Church Cathedral in St Aldate's, Oxford , on October 14, 2019
In June, a fresh jury was sworn in to hear the case in another courtroom which had been adapted for social distancing.

Due to the delay, Mr Altman was no longer available and Jonathan Laidlaw QC stepped in to prosecute in the retrial. 
Today, senior investigating officer, Detective Superintendent Stuart Blaik of the Thames Valley Police Major Crime Unit, said: 'Today Long, Bowers and Cole have been convicted of the manslaughter of our colleague Pc Andrew Harper.
'We respect the jury's decision to find the three defendants not guilty of the murder of PC Harper. We appreciate that the jurors must be sure that the prosecution has proved guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
'No matter what the verdicts, there would have been no sense of victory.
'It was always going to be an immense challenge to bring this case to court, and in doing so was an achievement in itself.
'This has been a hugely complicated investigation in which we seized 2,753 exhibits, took 1,250 statements and visited more than 1,000 homes during house to house enquiries.
'It was extremely challenging to determine our suspects but once we had, we then had to establish who was driving and who the passengers were. It is thanks to this work that we were able to prove beyond a doubt that Long, Bowers and Cole were all in the Seat Toledo that night. The strength of the evidence against them meant that they had to admit their involvement in this offence before the trial even started.'
Mr Blaik added: 'Hundreds of our officers and staff as well as colleagues from across the country and the Crown Prosecution Service worked diligently to discover the truth.
'I want to thank everyone who worked on this investigation. Without their hard work it would not have been possible to bring this case to court and convict Henry Long, Albert Bowers and Jessie Cole of manslaughter, and all the defendants of conspiracy to steal.
'I would like to draw particular attention to the incredible bravery shown by PC Harper's family throughout this entire process. Understandably, there has been a huge amount of media attention on this case since PC Harper's death, and much of his trial has been played out in the public eye.
'This must have been unimaginably distressing for his family at times, but they have shown strength, dignity and resilience throughout. I would like to thank them for this, and for the extraordinary support they have shown to our investigation.
'Pc Andrew Harper was a brave, young, dedicated police officer who was killed in the act of doing his job and trying to protect the public.
'Thames Valley Police, the wider policing family, and the country as a whole is proud of PC Harper for his dedicated service to protect the public, which ultimately cost him his life. We are all honoured to have called him our colleague.
Police officers searching near the scene where Thames Valley Police officer PC Harper died on August 18, 2019
Police officers searching near the scene where Thames Valley Police officer PC Harper died on August 18, 2019
Andrew Harper killer Henry Long uploads video of him drinking in car
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Mr Blaik said they showed no remorse and their friends and relatives sought to frustrate his investigation.
He vowed to PC Harper's family to find out what happened after the 28-year-old was found mortally injured on a country lane in Berkshire.
Thomas King earlier admitted conspiring to steal a quad bike
Thomas King earlier admitted conspiring to steal a quad bike
But he said the killers took a 'conscious decision' not to assist police from the outset' and officers 'were being frustrated by family and friends'.
Mr Blaik said: 'I did not have the pleasure of knowing Andrew Harper but a lot of my colleagues did know him.
'We will give the public the same level of expertise in terms of an investigation like this, regardless of whether Andrew was a police officer or not.
'The fact he was a police officer and one of our own of course, it's paid a huge toll on all of us.
'But I'm very proud of what we've done. It's been an incredibly difficult investigation for a whole host of reasons.
'But ultimately what I set out to do when I met the family very early on, I said I would try my very best for their sake and for Andrew's to establish what happened that night.'
It was the defendants' 'criminality' in stealing a quad bike that put them on course to meet PC Harper and his crewmate Pc Andrew Shaw, with 'catastrophic consequences'.
Mr Blaik said: 'Andrew and Pc Shaw were on their way home.
A minute's silence takes place for PC Harper at the Thames Valley Police Training Centre in Sulhamstead on August 23, 2019
A minute's silence takes place for PC Harper at the Thames Valley Police Training Centre in Sulhamstead on August 23, 2019
Police officers gathering to pay their respects at the scene in Sulhamstead, Berkshire, on August 20, 2019
Police officers gathering to pay their respects at the scene in Sulhamstead, Berkshire, on August 20, 2019
'They did not have to respond to this call for assistance from a member of the public.

'But that's not what we do. We are there to protect life and property.
'Despite having worked a long shift already they responded to that, and tragically Andrew has paid the ultimate price for that.
'But that's what police officers do up and down the country, day in, day out.
'We go towards trouble - we don't run away from it.
'I don't think for one minute these three defendants set out to kill a police officer that night but there was a point when the police and the three of them came together and they made a decision and that decision has had catastrophic consequences.'
Mr Blaik described the investigation as the 'most complex' of his 28-year career.
'It's late at night, dark country lanes with not an awful lot to go on in the very early stages.
'It's been a huge investigation and it has taken up an incredible amount of resources and time over the last seven or eight months.
'We located the vehicle on Four Houses Corner site within about 10 minutes of these dreadful events.
'The challenge was always going to be identifying who was in the car at that particular time.
'A decision was taken very early on to arrest all the males on the site that night.
'While we were being frustrated by family and friends, we were able to work through that and establish exactly what happened and who was involved.'
Examination of mobile phones provided a breakthrough, forcing Henry Long, Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers to admit they had gone out to steal a quad bike in the Seat vehicle the night PC Harper died.
 Long pleaded guilty to PC Harper's manslaughter not because it was 'the right thing to do' but because of 'overwhelming evidence', he said. 
Mr Blaik said: 'We went to a full reconstruction to try and replicate and re-enact those events as best we possibly could with the information we had.
'The expert we employed was absolutely unequivocal in his conclusions. It was clear and obvious from the outset there was something attached to the back of the car.'
The defendants had shown no remorse or helped police piece together what happened, he said. 
A police officer paying his respects at the scene near Ufton Lane in Sulhamstead, Berkshire, on August 20, 2019
A police officer paying his respects at the scene near Ufton Lane in Sulhamstead, Berkshire, on August 20, 2019
Members of the public lining the High Street in Oxford to pay their respects as the funeral cortege for PC Harper makes its way to Christ Church Cathedral in St Aldate's, Oxford, on October 14, 2019
Members of the public lining the High Street in Oxford to pay their respects as the funeral cortege for PC Harper makes its way to Christ Church Cathedral in St Aldate's, Oxford, on October 14, 2019
'They had every opportunity to do that and it was a conscious decision by them not to assist police from the very outset, all the way through, and even during the trial.'

He said it was 'hugely frustrating' when the first trial was stopped due to the coronavirus lockdown, but added: 'We are here.
'We've got through the trial now and I'm delighted we are in a position where the family have not got to go through the ordeal another time.'
On the impact of the tragedy on PC Harper's young widow, Mr Blaik said: 'I don't think you can ever imagine what Lissie has been through, all the family and all his close friends and colleagues.
'It's just absolutely devastating for them. This whole process of the court trial, having to relive what's happened and listen to the grisly detail of how Andrew came to his death. 
'I can't imagine what they have been through, what they are going through, and continue to go through.' 
Meanwhile, police leaders have called for a change in the law to try to prevent officers like Andrew Harper being killed or injured during traffic stops.
The Police Federation, which represents more than 120,000 officers up to the rank of chief inspector in England and Wales, wants drivers to be legally obliged to get out of their car when they are stopped.
Tim Rogers, the organisation's lead for pursuits and driver training, said: 'Our view is that if you have had to stop a vehicle, then you should in circumstances that are relevant have a power to ask someone to get out of the car.
'Having no power to have someone exit from a vehicle is a concern.
'Society wants us to engage with people who are of interest or vehicles that drive errantly, and they also want us to deal with them effectively.
'So it's not right that we're then put in that position of danger through dealing with an individual that we've got no power to get out of the car.'
Mr Harper died in horrific circumstances when he was caught in a crane strap dangling from the boot of a car as he tried to stop thieves making their escape in August last year.
In the same month another officer, Pc Gareth Phillips from West Midlands Police, also suffered life-changing injuries when he was run over by a suspected car thief in Birmingham.
Every week four officers from West Midlands alone are driven at by motorists who try to escape when stopped by police.
As the jury in the Harper case were deliberating their verdicts, a Metropolitan Police officer escaped serious injury when he was dragged 40 feet by a speeding car.
The soles of his shoes were torn off as he managed to roll free, suffering only grazes and bruises, in the incident in Southgate, north London.
Latest figures suggest that attacks on emergency services workers have risen by a quarter since last year, fuelled by coughing and spitting incidents related to coronavirus, unrest at protests and illegal raves.
Provisional data from all 43 forces in England and Wales showed a 24 per cent rise in the attacks in the four weeks to June 7 compared with the same period last year.
There are proposed plans to double the maximum sentence for assaulting an emergency services worker to two years.
Chairman of the Police Federation John Apter said: 'What we see far too often is offenders who assault police officers or any emergency worker, who are then let off with nothing more than a slap on the wrist, they're literally putting two fingers up to the criminal justice system.
'There's got to be a deterrent, these are violent individuals. I support the increase but the increase in sentencing is worthless if it doesn't go hand in hand with a complete review and overhaul of the sentencing guidelines.
'At the moment it's almost the exception that people go to prison, that should be turned around. The exception should be that you don't go to prison.'

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