LONDON — Anne Sacoolas, the wife of an American diplomat, is being formally charged with “causing death by dangerous driving” in the case of a crash on British soil that killed teenager Harry Dunn in August.
“Following the death of Harry Dunn in Northamptonshire, the Crown Prosecution Service has today authorised Northamptonshire Police to charge Anne Sacoolas with causing death by dangerous driving,” Chief Crown Prosecutor Janine Smith said in a statement.
“The Director of Public Prosecutions has met with Harry Dunn’s family to explain the basis of the decision we have made following a thorough review of the evidence available,” she said.
Smith added: “May I remind all concerned that criminal proceedings against Anne Sacoolas are now active and that she has a right to a fair trial. It is extremely important that there should be no reporting, commentary or sharing of information online which could in any way prejudice these proceedings.”
Although Sacoolas at first cooperated with British police, she later claimed diplomatic immunity under international law and returned to the United States — despite telling police she had no plans to do so.
In Britain, causing death by dangerous driving carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison and a disqualification from driving for at least two years.
“We express our deepest sympathies and offer condolences to the Dunn family for their loss,” a U.S. Department of State spokesperson said Friday. “We will continue to look for options for moving forward. We are disappointed by today’s announcement and fear that it will not bring a resolution closer. … We do not believe that the UK’s charging decision is a helpful development.”
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Friday: “I welcome the taking of a charging decision, which is an important step towards justice for Harry and towards solace for his family, but it is not the end.” He added: “I hope that Anne Sacoolas will now realize the right thing to do is to come back to the UK and cooperate with the criminal justice process.”
Dunn’s devastated parents have spent recent months appealing to British authorities and President Trump to send Sacoolas back to Britain to face court proceedings.
“President Trump, please listen,” Dunn’s mother, Charlotte Charles, said in an interview with Sky News in October. “We’re a family in ruin. We’re broken. We can’t grieve. Please, please, let her get back on a plane, come back to the U.K.” Charles continued: “We could understand how she’s feeling, but more importantly, she needs to face justice, see what she’s done.”
Tim Dunn, Harry Dunn’s father, said in October: “I’m deeply, deeply disappointed that they think it’s okay to kill a young lad on his bike and they can just walk away.”
Watch the emotional moment Harry Dunn's family find out Anne Sacoolas has been charged with causing death by dangerous driving.— Sky News (@SkyNews) December 20, 2019
Sacoolas was involved in a crash in which Harry Dunn died, but she left the country claiming diplomatic immunity.
More here: https://t.co/Dfwosw0jHT pic.twitter.com/ljc6ZYaCyx
On Friday, the parents were overcome with emotion upon learning of the move to charge Sacoolas in their son’s death.
“Three months of fighting, we’ve done it,” Charles could be heard saying through sobs in a video shared on social media by Sky News.
“We’ve got the charge. This is it,” Tim Dunn said. He called the news “amazing.”
Dunn’s mother has long expressed hope that this day would come, saying Friday that she would “never have been able to rest” without obtaining justice for her son. In recent months, Dunn’s parents have appeared on British and American television in an attempt to raise awareness about the case.
Trump stunned Dunn’s parents during a meeting at the White House in October when he announced that Sacoolas was waiting nearby and was prepared to meet with them.
Trump stuns Harry Dunn’s parents, says woman in crash that killed their son is nearby and able to meet
White House officials were skeptical of having Dunn’s parents and Sacoolas in the West Wing at the same time, but Trump was keen on having a “hug and makeup moment,” a person with knowledge of the discussions said at the time.
Dunn’s parents declined Trump’s offer to meet Sacoolas.
“We’ve said all along we are willing to meet her, but it has to be with therapists and mediators. And that’s not just for us; it’s for her as well,” Charles said later. “To be thrown into a room together with no prior warning, that’s not good for her mental health, and it’s certainly not good for ours.”
The Dunn case sparked outrage in Britain, thrusting the concept of diplomatic immunity under the spotlight. For many, the actions of Sacoolas after the crash called into question whom diplomatic immunity should protect and what exactly it should cover.