Thursday, July 25, 2024

PC Andrew Harper murder trial collapses due to coronavirus

The jury in the trial of three teenagers accused of the murder of PC Andrew Harper has been halted after three jurors placed themselves in self-isolation due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Old Bailey jury was discharged on Monday when a third juror began self-isolating, after two other members withdrew from the trial last week.

Henry Long, 18, and two 17-year-old boys who can’t be named for legal reasons deny murder.

Mr Justice Edis said he had taken the decision to discharge the jury with “great regret” and a “heavy heart.”

The judge said it was “not sensible to try to carry on” after a third juror began self-isolating when her father tested positive for the virus over the weekend.

Two other jurors in the trial, which started on 9 March, were discharged on Thursday because they went into self-isolation.

Mr Justice Edis said although the law permits a trial to continue with nine jurors, the trial into PC Harper’s death had not reached the end of the prosecution case and the three defendants had a “right to give and to call evidence.”

He said: “The trial cannot finish in the immediate future and the risk that we will lose another juror, or some other person who is essential to its continuation is so high that I have decided that it is no longer in the public interest to take the risk of continuing to convene at court.”

The judge said a case of “this importance” should be “if possible” decided by a jury with more than nine members.  He said he was “deeply sorry” to “those who loved” PC Harper for his decision, and said the case would be listed on 1 June for a review hearing.

The Old Bailey has heard PC Harper and a colleague were responding to a report of a quad bike theft near Sulhamstead when he became entangled in a tow rope.

PC Andrew Harper died after he got caught in a towing strap trailing behind a car on a country road in Berkshire in August 2019. The 28-year-old officer, from Wallingford, Oxfordshire, was dragged for more than a mile and suffered “absolutely catastrophic, unsurvivable injuries.”  He had only recently been married and was due to go on honeymoon.

Mr Long, from Mortimer, Reading, has admitted manslaughter and conspiracy to steal a quad bike.

The two 17-year-olds, who cannot be named due to their age, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal a quad bike. The pair also deny manslaughter.

Stephen West

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