In Depth

Could Anne Sacoolas face jail over Harry Dunn’s death?

Former CIA spook could be made to serve a sentence in the US if convicted

Harry Dunn

The US citizen accused of killing British teenager Harry Dunn in a car crash is to face criminal proceedings two years after fleeing the country and claiming diplomatic immunity.  

Former US intelligence officer Anne Sacoolas has admitted that she was driving on the wrong side of the road when her car collided with motorcyclist Dunn, 19, near RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire in August 2019.

Sacoolas, whose husband is also a CIA operative, left Britain for the US shortly afterwards.

Fleeing justice

In December 2019, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) authorised Northamptonshire Police to charge Sacoolas with causing death by dangerous driving. But an extradition request was rejected by the US government, meaning criminal action could not begin.

However, the CPS has now said Sacoolas’s case will go before magistrates next month, with a spokesperson stating that “while the challenges and complexity of this case are well known, we remain committed to securing justice in this matter”.

There are reports that the defendant will appear via video link, but a spokesperson for the law firm representing Sacoolas told The Guardian: “While we have always been willing to discuss a virtual hearing, there is no agreement at this time.”

The Dunns said they welcomed the prospect of a court hearing in their son’s case, with his mother, Charlotte, saying the family is “emotional and overwhelmed” at “the news that Mrs Sacoolas is now to face our justice system”. 

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss tweeted that the government will “continue to support the family to get justice for Harry Dunn”. David Lammy, shadow foreign secretary, added in a statement that “it is right there is now a trial in this tragic case and we hope that it can move forward”.

Will she face jail?

While Sacoolas will now have to face a UK court over the events that led to Dunn’s death, it remains unclear how a sentence would be dealt with if a guilty verdict is delivered.  

“If she is found guilty, the UK could seek her extradition from the US,” The Telegraph said. Legal sources have also “suggested another option could see her serve her sentence in the US”.

In March, Sacoolas’s lawyer told the Daily Mail that she would be willing to perform community service in the US and make a “contribution” in Dunn’s memory. But she also warned that “since the charge pending in Britain” would “not usually result in a prison sentence in the US, her client was not inclined to return to the UK to face trial”.

That option is now off the table following the CPS announcement, with a spokesperson for the prosecution service stating that she “has a right to a fair trial”.

The case has caused “ongoing diplomatic tensions” between the US and UK, CNN said. 

Radd Seiger, a retired lawyer who advises the Dunn family, told The Times that the agreement to bring Sacoolas before a UK court was the result of “pressure that has been maintained on the US government”. The case is an illustration of “how to stand up to the might of the US government”, he added.

The Dunns’ campaign on behalf of their son included a dramatic moment in October 2019 when they met the then president, Donald Trump, at the White House.

He reportedly “ambushed” them with the news that Saccolas was in an adjacent room. However, Dunn’s parents refused the offer to meet her.

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