US citizen Anne Sacoolas is to face a virtual trial before a UK court after being charged with causing the death of teenager Harry Dunn by dangerous driving outside a US military base.
Mrs Sacoolas left the UK nineteen days after the crash claiming diplomatic immunity, but will now face Westminster magistrates’ court on 18th Jan 2022 charged with causing the 19-year-old’s death on 27th Aug 2019. It is understood that both the hearing and future trial will be held via video link after negotiations by the Foreign Office and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). If she is found guilty, the UK could seek her extradition from the US, although it has been suggested by legal sources that another option could see her serve her sentence in the US.
Charlotte Charles, Mr Dunn’s mother, said: “My family and I are feeling very emotional and overwhelmed, having just learnt the news that Mrs Sacoolas is now to face our justice system. It is all that we asked for following Harry’s death.” A spokesman for the CPS said: “While the challenges and complexity of this case are well known, we remain committed to securing justice in this matter.”
The family’s spokesman, Radd Seiger, said: “It is everything we have been campaigning for. We are absolutely overwhelmed. I have just spoken to Harry’s parents a few moments ago. There were a lot of tears as you can imagine. We don’t hold any ill will against Ms Sacoolas. It is just about the principle that you don’t get to do this and walk away. I have been trying to find the words. How do you sum this up? It’s impossible. It’s surely the greatest campaign for justice in living memory.”
Mrs Sacoolas, the wife of a US intelligence officer, crashed into Harry Dunn outside the US military base RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire while she was allegedly on the wrong side of the road. The US authorities refused a request for the extradition of Mrs Sacoolas after asserting diplomatic immunity on her behalf, and she returned to her home country before being charged by the CPS with causing death by dangerous driving in Dec 2019.
Earlier this year Mrs Sacoolas’s lawyer, Amy Jeffress, said that she would be willing to perform community service in the US and make a “contribution” in Mr Dunn’s memory, as well as meet his family. Ms Jeffress claimed that Mrs Sacoolas has “never denied” responsibility for the crash, but said that her client was not inclined to return to the UK to face trial – since, in the US, the charge pending in Britain against Mrs Sacoolas would not usually result in a prison sentence. However, the justice secretary at the time, Robert Buckland, rejected the proposal, saying Mrs Sacoolas must face justice in the UK.
An expert in constitutional law who previously advised the family, Mark Stephens, said she could be extradited or could serve her sentence in the US if such a deal had been agreed, and that her decision to leave the UK could prove to be an “aggravating” factor if it came to sentencing her. He said “The important thing is that the parents will for the very first time find out what actually happened. The one thing she has failed to do so far is to give an account to the parents. Until you know what actually happened, it is very difficult to begin the grieving process.”
Following the CPS announcement, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss wrote on Twitter: “Welcome news that Anne Sacoolas will face a UK court. We continue to support the family to get justice for Harry Dunn.”