Coroner calls on US to act over Harry Dunn death

Harry Dunn
Harry Dunn died following a collision outside RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire in 2019 (Image: Justice4harry19)

A coroner has called for improved driver training for US government staff in the UK following the death of Harry Dunn.

The motorcyclist was killed in a collision with a car driven by American Anne Sacoolas outside RAF Croughton near Brackley in August 2019.

The Northamptonshire coroner, Anne Pember, has also written to the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) over ambulance delays.

The US embassy said it was committed to ensuring all personnel posted to the UK drove in a “safe and responsible” manner.

The BBC has seen a number of Prevention of Future Death (PFD) reports which have been issued following an inquest held last month into Mr Dunn’s death.

Mrs Pember highlighted conflicting evidence about the driver training given to American personnel following the collision on the B4031.

The US embassy told the inquest that new arrivals were briefed on the dangers of driving on the wrong side of the road.

But Mrs Pember said subsequent evidence contradicted this.

She has written to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) informing them of the need to take action.

Woman speaking to reportersCharlotte Charles, mother of Harry Dunn, speaking to the media following the conclusion of the inquest into the death of her son (Image: PA)

 

The inquest also heard about a delay in a road ambulance reaching the 19-year-old.

The coroner sent another PFD report to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) highlighting the need to meet response time standards and tackle handover delays, which often cause ambulances to be stuck outside A&E.

Mrs Pember also issued a third report, calling for paramedics to be able to carry stronger pain relief to help patients in a similar situation.

The government departments concerned have 56 days to respond to her.

‘Diplomatic immunity’

Mr Dunn was killed on 27 August 2019, when Mrs Sacoolas’ car struck his motorcycle moments after she left the Northamptonshire base.

She was driving on the right side of the road, the standard in America, when she should have been on the left.

Sacoolas had diplomatic immunity asserted on her behalf by the US government following the crash, because her husband Jonathan worked for US intelligence.

The couple then left the UK and it later emerged she was also an intelligence operative.

She was eventually sentenced, via video link in December 2022, to eight months’ in prison, suspended for a year, for causing death by careless driving.

Woman filling up her car A court heard Anne Sacoolas was a member of the US intelligence community. (Image: Mega Agency)

 

In a new statement, Mr Dunn’s family expressed their satisfaction at the PFD reports.

“The family were always determined to ensure that Harry’s death was not in vain and that part of his legacy would be that no family should suffer the way they suffered and that all lessons that needed to be learned,” they said.

They added: “Despite the UK FCDO saying publicly that lessons had been learned in respect of road safety and that they were taking steps to ensure that the US did address the issue once and for all, it became clear in evidence at the inquest that that was not in fact the case.”

The US Embassy offered its condolences to the Dunn family.

It told the BBC: “US military and diplomatic personnel and family members are required to respect the laws of the host country.

“That responsibility includes observing laws related to operating motor vehicles safely.

“The US Embassy is committed to ensuring that all US personnel posted to the UK drive in a manner that is safe and responsible”.

An FCDO spokesman said: “We pay tribute to the incredible resolve of Harry’s family and thank the coroner for her report.

“This government will consider her recommendations and will respond.

“We are committed to ensuring lessons are properly learnt. Our thoughts remain with Harry Dunn’s family, friends and loved ones.”

The DHSC said: “Our sympathies are with Harry Dunn’s friends and family in this tragic case, and it is important that we learn from every prevention of future deaths report.”

Source: bbc.co.uk

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