Harry Dunn's mother 'disappointed' at no-show in court from his killer

Harry Dunn’s mother says it is ‘incredibly disappointing’ that her son’s killer Anne Sacoolas has NOT flown from the US to be sentenced over crash that killed the 19-year-old

  • Harry Dunn’s mother ‘disappointed’ at her son’s killer’s no-show for sentencing 
  • Harry, 19, was mowed down by US diplomat Anne Sacoolas in August 2019 
  • Sacoolas pleaded guilty to causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving
  • Despite this, she was advised by the US Government not to attend sentencing 

The mother of teenage motorcyclist Harry Dunn has said it is ‘incredibly disappointing’ her son’s killer will not attend her sentencing hearing in person.

Charlotte Charles said she was ‘absolutely fuming’ after hearing the US government had advised Anne Sacoolas not to attend court today.

Sacoolas, 45, is due to be sentenced at the Old Bailey for causing Mr Dunn’s death by careless driving after pleading guilty to the offence in October.

The 19-year-old was killed when the US citizen was driving her Volvo on the wrong side of the road outside American military base RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire on August 27 2019.

19-year-old Harry Dunn died in August 2019, when he was struck by a car driven by US diplomat’s wife Anne Sacoolas outside RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire

At a hearing in October, US citizen Anne Sacoolas pleaded guilty, via video-link from the United States, to causing Harry Dunn´s death by careless driving

Sacoolas had diplomatic immunity asserted on her behalf by the US government after the crash and was able to leave the UK 19 days after the incident.

During the court hearing in October, Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb said that although she could not compel the defendant to face justice in person, it would provide ‘weighty evidence’ of ‘genuine remorse’.

But on Tuesday, a court official told PA that Sacoolas’s government employer had advised her not to attend the hearing, and that a renewed application for proceedings to be conducted over video-link had been granted by the judge.

Giving her reaction to the advice given by the US government, Mrs Charles said: ‘If that’s right, then I’m absolutely fuming.

US citizen Sacoolas (pictured in Virginia) was accused of killing the teenage motorcyclist in a road crash outside US military base RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire on August 27, 2019 

(Left to right) Harry Dunn’s father Tim Dunn, stepmother Tracey, mother Charlotte Charles and stepfather Bruce stand outside the Old Bailey at a previous case management hearing


Today’s sentencing follows the three-year battle by Mr Dunn’s family for accountability over the crash. 

Anne Sacoolas had been driving on the wrong side of the road after leaving the airbase on August 27, 2019. She hit the teenager as he was travelling in the opposite direction on his motorbike.

Sacoolas appeared via video-link in Court One of the Old Bailey for a plea and case management hearing in October.

The defendant, on unconditional bail, entered her pleas before senior judge Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb.

When she was asked how she pleaded to the charge of causing death by dangerous driving, she leaned forward in her chair as she answered not guilty.

When asked how she pleaded to causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving, she stumbled over her words before saying: ‘Guilty.’

Gasps rang out from the public gallery where ten of Mr Dunn’s family and friends watched on, some of them bursting into tears.

Both of Mr Dunn’s parents held their heads in their hands as Sacoolas pleaded guilty.

Telling the court the crown accepted the plea of causing death by careless driving, Mr Atkinson said: ‘The Crown recognises putting at risk a vulnerable road user is capable of amounting to dangerous driving.

‘The prosecution has taken into account… the mitigation available to this defendant and the balance of justice.

‘It has been considered at the very highest level.’

‘We had all come to expect that Anne Sacoolas would at last be doing the right thing and coming back as ordered to by the judge.

‘But to hear now that her government employer has interfered with that only compounds our misery.

‘It makes us even more determined than ever, when the sentence is passed, to make sure that the US government never treats another British family so badly again.’

Commenting on proceedings now being held over video-link, Mrs Charles said: ‘When we were first told in 2021 that we would be getting justice after all, that was in the middle of the pandemic, it never mattered to us how Anne Sacoolas faced justice.

‘What mattered to us was that she faced our justice system, not how she faced our justice system.

‘We are overjoyed that our main campaign objective has been met.

‘It is incredibly disappointing she won’t appear in person, but both she and the US government will have to live with the consequences of that, not us.’

Asked what it would have meant for Sacoolas to appear in person in court, Mrs Charles told PA: ‘It’s what we’ve been asking for for the last three years, two months.

‘It would mean everything – that would be the best way that she could try to find some redemption within our family.

‘It would be the best way that she could show remorse, which Judge Cheema-Grubb pointed out very clearly.

‘Even though that threw a curveball in and nobody was expecting her to come out with that – well done on that judge for doing that.

‘It would have been the the best thing by a longshot.’

Speaking about whether she had concerned herself with what sentence Sacoolas might receive, Mr Dunn’s mother said: ‘Just let the judge do what she does best.

‘We don’t pretend to know too much about the criminal justice system.

‘We’re very much aware that it is fair, if anything very lenient in comparison to some of the countries, so we’re just going in with our eyes wide open.

Sacoolas, who appeared via video-link at a previous hearing in the case on September 29, joined the proceedings remotely

Charlotte Charles speaking to the media after Sacoolas´s plea hearing (James Manning/PA)

A court sketch of Sacoolas (on the screen, right) during her appearance at the Old Bailey. Tim Dunn (right) held his head in his hands as Sacoolas pleaded guilty 

‘We’ll see what she has to say and take it from there. But what will be will be. My family have never really focused on the sentencing side of things.

‘No amount of time that Anne Sacoolas would be given or could be given is ever going to be enough when you’ve lost a child, so … whatever sentence she gets, I’m not going to be sat there counting the days down.

‘I owe it to Harry, I owe it to Niall (Harry’s twin brother), I owe it to their other siblings and my husband, my family, to take that point forward and start to rebuild our lives.’

Reflecting on whether the achievements brought about by her campaign for justice had sunk in, she added: ‘It has a little bit more now for sure.

‘Just things like when we go out and about now, we’re getting the public coming up to us and saying well done as opposed to keep going.

‘That makes you sit back and reflect … and think crikey, yeah, we have come a long way.

‘Harry would be so, so proud.

‘But I don’t think it’s really sunk in the enormity of what we’ve achieved.

‘I think it’s going to be a while before we we really take in the enormity of what’s happened so far.’


By Josh Payne, PA Chief Reporter

US citizen Anne Sacoolas has pleaded guilty to causing the death of Harry Dunn by careless driving during virtual proceedings at the Old Bailey.

Here, the PA news agency looks at how diplomatic immunity affected the 19-year-old’s case, and why Sacoolas was able to appear in court via video-link from her home country.

– What is diplomatic immunity?

Diplomatic immunity is a legal exemption from certain laws granted to diplomats by the state in which they are working.

It ensures they will not be liable to be prosecuted under the host country’s laws. It is governed by an international treaty called the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and UK legislation called the Diplomatic Privileges Act.

– Why was diplomatic immunity asserted on Anne Sacoolas’s behalf?

The US Government and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) position is that dependants (such as spouses or children) of US administrative and technical staff at RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire had diplomatic immunity at the time of the crash.

The Dunn family have disputed this but the High Court ruled Sacoolas was entitled to immunity in November 2020.

– Why could diplomatic immunity be asserted for Sacoolas but not her husband?

The Vienna Convention states waivers of immunity must always be ‘express’.

In an agreement drawn up for RAF Croughton in 1994-95 between the UK and the US, the immunity enjoyed by administrative and technical staff would be waived for actions outside the course of their duties.

Dependants were not mentioned in the agreements.

– Why was Sacoolas not extradited?

An extradition request, submitted by the Home Office in January 2020, was rejected by the US State Department – who described it as ‘highly inappropriate’.

President Joe Biden’s administration said the decision not to extradite Sacoolas was ‘final’.

– Why has Sacoolas appeared in a UK court virtually?

The court’s ability to conduct remote proceedings derives from coronavirus legislation, which allows even the most important court sessions, such as plea and sentence hearings, to be done virtually.

– Is Sacoolas able to walk away from proceedings?

The former head of extradition at the CPS, Nick Vamos, said Sacoolas ‘could at any point in these proceedings have simply turned her video-link off and walked away, and there’s nothing the court could have done about it’.

– Does the conclusion of criminal proceedings mean the end of the Dunn family’s campaign?

Although the main objectives of their campaign have been achieved, Harry’s parents are still to keen for there to be an inquest into their son’s death and a parliamentary inquiry.

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