Harry Dunn's mother breaks down in tears as his killer Anne Sacoolas avoids jail

  • Mrs Justice Cheema Grubb sentencing Anne Sacoolas

A US citizen who fled the country after killing a teenage motorcyclist while driving on the wrong side of the road has avoided jail.

Anne Sacoolas, 45, caused a crash that killed 19-year-old Harry Dunn outside a US Air Force base in Northamptonshire on 27 August 2019.

She left the UK 19 days later, claiming diplomatic immunity in a move that sparked a major transatlantic diplomatic row which reached the very top of the US and UK governments.

After negotiations with the Crown Prosecution Service, she pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of causing death by careless driving.

Judge Mrs Justice Cheema Grubb sentenced her on Thursday to eight months in prison, suspended for a year. She also disqualified Sacoolas from driving for 12 months.

Mrs Justice Cheema Grubb told Anne Sacoolas: "There is no doubt that the calm and dignified persistence of these parents and family of that young man has led through three years of heartbreak and effort to your appearance before this court and acknowledge your guilt."

Sacoolas appeared by video-link at the Old Bailey after the US Government advised her not to attend in person, despite the judge requesting her to do so.

Anne Sacoolas appeared via video-link in court

The decision had sparked anger from the Dunn family, whose spokesman said they were "horrified" at what he called "a cowardly act on the part of an oppressor".

Speaking outside court, Harry Dunn's mother Charlotte Charles told reporters: "Job done, promise complete. Properly, properly complete now.

"Anne Sacoolas now has a criminal record. Yep, Harry, we've done it.

"We would have been happy with anything - for us, it was just about doing the right thing."

Asked if she would meet Sacoolas, Mrs Charles said: "Too much too late now."

Sacoolas, the wife of a US diplomat at the base, had originally been charged with causing death by dangerous driving - which she denied - but she pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of causing death by careless driving.

She had diplomatic immunity asserted on her behalf by the US government following the crash near the US Air Force base RAF Croughton, and was able to leave the UK 19 days after the incident.

However, in December 2019, the Crown Prosecution Service authorised Northamptonshire Police to charge her with causing Mr Dunn’s death by dangerous driving.

A former Foreign Office minister who signed off an agreement which allowed the US government to assert diplomatic immunity on behalf of Anne Sacoolas said it was "never intended" to be used in that way.

Sir Tony Baldry, who was a junior minister when the documents were drawn up in the 1990s, said he was "horrified" when the US suggested there was a "loophole" in the original agreement following Harry Dunn's death.

"I don't think it was ever intended, I'm quite sure, when the Foreign Office legal team thought out or agreed to the agreements, that you are covered by diplomatic immunity when you weren't actually acting as a diplomat" he said.

Following the conclusion of the case, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly acknowledged that 'important lessons' had been learned from the incident, "including improvements to the process around exemptions from diplomatic immunity".

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