Harry Dunn: Justice for family three years after crash death

Harry Dunn
Harry Dunn was killed after a crash outside RAF Croughton in August 2019 (Image: Justice4Harry)

Three years on from the death of teenager Harry Dunn, who died after a car crashed into his motorbike outside a US military base in the UK, a US citizen has admitted responsibility. She was handed an eight-month jail term, suspended for 12 months, after pleading guilty to criminal charges.

After a transatlantic diplomatic row, how did Harry’s family finally get justice?

Who was Harry Dunn?

Harry Dunn(Image: Justice4Harry19)

 

Harry Dunn’s mother, Charlotte Charles, said the 19-year-old was “larger than life” with a “great” sense of humour.

On 27 August 2019, he died in a crash near RAF Croughton, Northamptonshire, after US national Anne Sacoolas’s car struck his motorbike moments after she left the base.

The car was driving on the right side of the road when it should have been on the left under the UK’s Highway Code.

Sacoolas had diplomatic immunity asserted on her behalf by the US administration following the crash, because her husband Jonathan worked for a US intelligence agency at the base. They then both left the UK.

As a relative of a member of US staff at the air base, Sacoolas was able to claim diplomatic immunity, which the then UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said was an “anomaly”.

It later transpired¬†in a US civil court hearing that Sacoolas was “employed by an intelligence agency in the US” at the time of the crash.

Why did it cause a diplomatic row?

Donald Trump
Harry Dunn’s family met the then President Donald Trump at the White House in October 2019 (Image: EPA)

 

Following Harry’s death, his parents, Mrs Charles and Tim Dunn, aided by spokesman Radd Seiger, began a campaign to have the case brought to court.

The family hoped the US would either waive Sacoolas’s immunity or¬†she would voluntarily return to the UK.

It led them to the White House and a meeting with the then President Donald Trump in October 2019.

During the meeting, he revealed Sacoolas was in the next room, but the family felt “ambushed” and did not meet her.

In December 2019, the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) authorised Northamptonshire Police to charge Sacoolas with causing Mr Dunn’s death.

But an extradition request for her to be brought to the UK was rejected by the US government.

When Joe Biden became president in January 2021, there was hope from the family the position would change, but the new administration¬†said the refusal was “final”.

What did the UK government say?

Boris Johnson, when he was prime minister, raised the case with President Biden, most recently at¬†last year’s G7 summit in Cornwall.

Mr Johnson said he had “massive sympathy with Harry Dunn’s family and all his friends”.

“We will continue to do whatever we can to get justice for Harry Dunn,” he said at the time.

Liz Truss raised the case with the US Secretary of State when she was foreign secretary during the United Nations General Assembly in 2021.

She tweeted: “We continue to support the family to get justice for Harry Dunn.”

In December 2019, Tim Dunn and the family’s legal team met the then Home Secretary Priti Patel to discuss any extradition process.

The UK and the US also agreed to amend the “anomaly” in a “secret agreement” that allowed Sacoolas¬†to claim diplomatic immunity.

How did Anne Sacoolas end up in court?

Charlotte Charles, Radd Seiger and Tim Dunn
Charlotte Charles, Radd Seiger and Tim Dunn (left to right) campaigned for the case to go to court (Image: PA Media)

 

In the absence of extradition, the family launched a civil claim for damages against Sacoolas and her husband in the US.

A court hearing in Virginia¬†in February 2021¬†was told Sacoolas was “employed by an intelligence agency in the US” when the crash happened.

Her barrister said she fled the UK for “security issues” and feared she would “not get a fair trial” if she returned.

But a resolution in the case was reached before Sacoolas or her husband were called to give evidence, the details of which have not been disclosed.

In December 2021, the CPS said Sacoolas¬†would appear at magistrates’ court¬†in the UK to face unspecified charges.

But a month later it said the court date¬†had been postponed¬†to allow “ongoing” discussions with the legal team of the US national.

Then¬†a change in the law in June¬†meant Sacoolas was able to appear in court via video-link from the US, which she did on 29 September at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.

She has appeared, again by video-link, at the Old Bailey, where she pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving on 20 October.

The 45-year-old was originally charged with causing death by dangerous driving, but the CPS accepted her plea to the lesser charge.

She was sentenced to eight months imprisonment suspended for 12 months, once again appearing via video-link after the US government advised Sacoolas not to attend her sentencing hearing.

Sacoolas was also disqualified from driving for 12 months.

What did Harry Dunn’s family say after the hearing?

Harry Dunn
Harry Dunn was a keen motorcyclist and memorial rides in Northamptonshire have previously been organised (Image: Justice4Harry19)

 

His mother Charlotte Charles said the night Harry died “was and will always be the worst ever of our lives”.

She said: “I had no idea of what laid ahead, I had no idea that it was going to be this hard.

“Getting to court and getting to where we are now has been the most monumental thing for me because I can talk to him now and tell him we’ve done it. Promise complete.

“I feel I can breathe easier. I don’t have that guilt on my shoulders of not having done it yet.

“I’ve gone from not being able to feel proud because it hadn’t yet been done, to now where I can say I now do feel proud.”

His father Tim Dunn said: “I go up to the crash site quite a lot – I went there a couple of days ago to strim and put some daffodils in ready for the spring.

“Hopefully we’ve given hope to other families that they can do the same as us and get justice and believe and fight because it will happen in the end, it will happen.”

Source: bbc.co.uk

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