Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the ‘law should take its course’ in the case of Harry Dunn and that the Government will press the issue with the US ‘at every level’ after a diplomat’s wife was charged his death.
Parents Charlotte Charles, 44, and Tim Dunn, 50, has led a high-profile campaign for justice after Anne Sacoolas returned to the US after the car she was driving collided with their 19-year-old sons’s motorbike on August 27.
Sacoolas, 42, and her family had been based at RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire and she sparked public outrage after claiming diplomatic immunity due to her husband’s job.
It was only after she left the UK on a military flight directly from the air base that the Foreign Office wrote to the family to say immunity in her case was not valid.
After the Dunn family’s campaign – which included a trip to the White House – the Crown Prosecution Service announced yesterday that Sacoolas has been charged with causing death by dangerous driving.
Asked during a visit to Estonia if suspect Anne Sacoolas should be extradited to the UK, Mr Johnson said: ‘I think the best thing that I can say there is that the law should take its course and we will be obviously following that case with keen interest and continuing to make representations on behalf of Harry Dunn’s family at every level.’
Charlotte Charles mother of Harry Dunn with Harry’s step dad, Raad Seiger, father Tim Dunn and Harry’s stepmother outside the CPS in London yesterday
Charlotte Charles, 44, broke down as she found out Anne Sacoolas had been charged
The family of Harry Dunn hugged each other as they were told that Sacoolas would be charged with dangerous driving
Tim Dunn, 50, broke down as he heard the news that Anne Sacoolas is to be charged with causing death by dangerous driving
Anne Sacoolas has been charged with causing the death of British teen, Harry Dunn by way of Dangerous Driving. She is seen here leaving her house in a car in Virginia, December 15, 2019
Sacoolas, pictured getting ready to get into her car at her house in Virginia, sparked international controversy after claiming diplomatic immunity
Asked during a visit to Estonia if suspect Anne Sacoolas should be extradited to the UK, Mr Johnson (pictured with British soldiers at the Tapa military campus in Estonia) said: ‘I think the best thing that I can say there is that the law should take its course’
Harry Dunn’s family also today said it will take ‘whatever the Trump Administration says with a pinch of salt’ after the US State Department branded a decision to charge Sacoolas over the death of their son ‘unhelpful’.
Harry’s family broke down in tears after they heard the news. They hugged each other and sobbed as they were told Anne Sacoolas would be charged with death by dangerous driving.
Prosecutors have begun the extradition process to bring her back to the UK.
After the decision was announced a US State Department spokesman said: ‘We do not believe that the UK’s charging decision is a helpful development.’
But the Dunn family spokesman Radd Seiger today hit back saying: ‘Frankly, we have learned to take whatever the Trump Administration says with a pinch of salt.’
He added: ‘There are extradition proceedings underway, and whether the British authorities’ decision yesterday was helpful or not to the American government, this case will be dealt under the rule of law, which we know is just as important to Americans as it is to British people.
‘To the extent that anyone in authority seeks to impede a lawful request from the British for Anne Sacoolas to be brought back to the UK, they will ultimately have to put their argument to an independent judge in Court.
Mr Seiger also hit back at comments made by Amy Jeffress, Sacoolas’s lawyer, which said she had ‘co-operated fully with the investigation’.
Legal battle that lies ahead after US suspect Anne Sacoolas is charged
Here is the potential legal battle ahead, as Anne Sacoolas is charged with causing death by dangerous driving by the Crown Prosecution Service.
– What is the extradition process?
Extradition between the US and the UK is governed by the Extradition Act 2003, a treaty signed by both countries.
Once a charge has been made, a CPS prosecutor goes before a magistrates’ court to give an overview of the case.
Extradition requests prepared by the CPS are sent by the Home Office to the requested state, in this case the US, through the diplomatic route.
If the extradition request is executed it goes before a US court, where a judge needs to be satisfied there is ‘probable cause’ to suspect that Sacoolas is guilty of the offence, according to the treaty.
– Can Sacoolas be extradited?
An extradition request sent by the UK is received by the US State Department via the British Embassy, where a lawyer looks at the request and decides whether it conforms to the ‘dual-criminality’ treaty.
Dual-criminality means that no-one can be extradited by either country unless the alleged offence is a crime in both countries, and carries a prison sentence of at least a year.
Causing death by dangerous driving, under the Road Traffic Act 1988, carries a maximum sentence of 14 years, although the maximum sentence is reserved for rare cases where blame is exceptionally high, according to the Sentencing Council.
The US may reject the request for extradition, arguing that Sacoolas is still entitled to diplomatic immunity.
She added: ‘Anne will not return voluntarily to the United Kingdom to face a potential jail sentence for what was a terrible but unintentional accident.’
Mr Seiger said: ‘I know (Ms Jeffress) to be one of the finest and most outstanding lawyers in the USA. Her statement however boggles the mind and is deeply disturbing.
‘For Ms Jeffress to seek to undermine one of the most mature, well-developed legal systems in the world, which has fairness at its heart, and which many countries around the world have modelled their legal systems on, is unbecoming of any lawyer, let alone someone of her stature.’
Mr Seiger urged Sacoolas to ‘put that defence forward in court here rather than ventilate it publicly’.
He added: ‘Like everyone else (in the UK) she will get a fair trial.’
After the CPS decision on Friday, a spokesman for the US State Department said it was ‘disappointed’, adding it feared the move would ‘not bring a resolution closer’.
The department maintained that Sacoolas had diplomatic immunity at the time of the incident.
It added: ‘It is the position of the United States government that a request to extradite an individual under these circumstances would be an egregious abuse.’
Mrs Charles and Mr Dunn were both at the Crown Prosecution Service headquarters in Westminster, central London yesterday when the charge was announced.
That afternoon Sacoolas’ lawyer Ms Jeffress, said in a statement that the diplomat’s wife remains ‘devastated’ by the ‘tragic accident’ that killed Harry, but doesn’t plan to voluntarily return to the UK.
It came after the US State Department said it is ‘disappointed’ at the decision to charge Sacoolas and said in a statement that it fears ‘it will not bring a resolution closer’. But Foreign Secretary Dominc Raab said he ‘welcomed’ the decision saying it was an ‘important step towards justice.’
Speaking outside the building yesterday Mrs Charles looked visibly emotional as she told how the family’s efforts to ‘seek justice’ since her son’s death had been harder than she had imagined.
Now that the CPS has authorised Northamptonshire Police to charge Sacoolas extradition proceedings have begun. If the extradition request is executed it is issued by the Home Office to the US, where a judge needs to be satisfied there is ‘probable cause’ to suspect that Sacoolas is guilty of the offence.
A lawyer in the US state department will look at the request and decide if it conforms to the ‘dual criminality’ treaty – which means it has to be a crime in both countries for extradition to occur. However it could result in a stalemate as the US may reject the request for extradition, arguing that Sacoolas is still entitled to diplomatic immunity.
Harry was killed when his motorbike was involved in a head-on collision with a car outside RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire on August 27
The family of Harry Dunn (left to right) mother Charlotte Charles, stepfather Bruce Charles, family spokesman Radd Seiger, father Tim Dunn and stepmother Tracey Dunn outside the Ministry Of Justice in London after meeting with the Director of Public Prosecutions
Mrs Charles said yesterday: ‘We feel that we have made a huge step in the start of achieving the promise to Harry that we made. We made that promise to him the night we lost him to seek justice thinking it was going to be really easy.
‘We had no idea it was going to be so hard and it would take so long but we feel it is a huge step towards that promise we made Harry.’
Sacoolas, 42, the wife of a US intelligence officer, was twice interviewed by Northamptonshire Police – once on the day after the crash, and on another occasion by officers who travelled to the US.
She sparked an international controversy after claiming diplomatic immunity.
Later it became clear that her husband was an intelligence officer and not a registered diplomat in a recognised role, and therefore neither he nor his wife are entitled to diplomatic immunity.
In a statement released after the charge was announced, Sacoolas lawyer Amy Jeffress said: ‘Anne is devastated by this tragic accident and continues to extend her deepest condolences to the family.
Diplomats to seek talks with the US to close loophole in diplomatic immunity arrangements
UK diplomats will seek talks with the US in a bid to close the loophole in diplomatic immunity arrangements which allowed Anne Sacoolas to return home.
A Government review found family members of US officers serving at RAF Croughton have greater protection from UK criminal laws than the officers themselves, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Friday.
Foreign Office staff will now press the US over the ‘anomaly’ in the existing diplomatic immunity agreement between the two countries, which emerged after Mr Raab ordered the review following the Harry Dunn case.
Under the arrangements, agreed between the UK and US governments in 1995, US staff at RAF Croughton and their families are regarded as part of the US embassy in the UK and afforded protection under the Vienna Convention.
As part of the agreement immunity was waived for the base’s employees but that waiver did not apply to spouses, Mr Raab told MPs in October.
The rules meant Sacoolas, the wife of a US intelligence officer, was able to return to her home country after the car she was driving allegedly collided with the 19-year-old’s motorbike outside the Northamptonshire base, used by the US Air Force, on August 27.
In a written statement to the Commons on Friday, Mr Raab said: ‘The Croughton Review has now concluded.
‘It considered the anomaly that family members of US officers serving at the Annex at RAF Croughton have, under current arrangements between the UK and the US, greater protection from UK criminal jurisdiction than the officers themselves.
‘On the basis of the review, I have instructed my officials to begin discussions with the US on the most effective way to address this anomaly.’
‘Anne would do whatever she could to bring Harry back. She is a mother herself and cannot imagine the pain of the loss of a child. She has cooperated fully with the investigation and accepted responsibility.
‘We have been working with the UK authorities in an effort to resolve this matter. Today we were informed that the Crown Prosecution Service has decided to bring a prosecution for wrongful death by dangerous driving, and the UK government may seek extradition.
‘This was an accident, and a criminal prosecution with a potential penalty of fourteen years imprisonment is simply not a proportionate response.
‘We have been in contact with the UK authorities about ways in which Anne could assist with preventing accidents like this from happening in the future, as well as her desire to honour Harry’s memory.
‘We will continue that dialogue in an effort to move forward from this terrible tragedy. But Anne will not return voluntarily to the United Kingdom to face a potential jail sentence for what was a terrible but unintentional accident.’
A US State Department spokesman also expressed their ‘deepest sympathies’ over the loss of Harry Dunn, but said it was ‘disappointed’ by the decision to charge.
It said: ‘We express our deepest sympathies and offer condolences to the Dunn family for their loss.
‘We will continue to look for options for moving forward. ‘We are disappointed by today’s announcement and fear that it will not bring a resolution closer.
‘This was a tragic accident, a young man has lost his life, and his family is grieving.’
It added: ‘The United States has been clear that, at the time the accident occurred, and for the duration of her stay in the UK, the driver in this case had status that conferred diplomatic immunities.
‘The Foreign Secretary stated the same in Parliament.
‘It is the position of the United States government that a request to extradite an individual under these circumstances would be an egregious abuse.
‘The use of an extradition treaty to attempt to return the spouse of a former diplomat by force would establish an extraordinarily troubling precedent.
‘We do not believe that the UK’s charging decision is a helpful development.’
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab welcomed the decision to charge Sacoolas.
He said: ‘I welcome the taking of a charging decision which is an important step towards justice for Harry and towards solace for his family, but it is not the end.
‘I hope that Anne Sacoolas will now realise the right thing to do is to come back to the UK and cooperate with the criminal justice process.’
Charlotte Charles said she was ‘distraught’ after the American suspect in the crash that killed her son Harry was filmed driving a car earlier this month
Chief Constable of Northamptonshire Police Nick Adderley said to Sky News: ‘They are going through hell. There is no question about that, they are going through this, and I hope this charging decision gives them some comfort.
‘I find it quite sad actually that you know, you’re holding onto a charging decision and seeing that as good news when actually you’ve lost your son.
‘We move forward, this is good news, this what we’ve been working for.’
He added: ‘We will support the Crown Prosecution Service where we can but we will now let justice run its course. We now let that run and we hope obviously we see Anne Sacoolas back in the UK to face justice.’
Responding to the US State Department’s statement, Mr Adderley added: ‘My emotional reaction is that I have a 19-year-old boy who has lost his life in the county of Northamptonshire, the county I am responsible for, and it does not sit comfortably with me that we do not have an individual that is held to account or facing the questions they should be facing in a court of law around the loss of Harry Dunn.
‘The professional response is that we now have to let that now take its course, I hope the American authorities see sense, I hope that they see the injustice here in this case and that they do the right thing and make sure that they get the wheels in motion to get Anne Sacoolas back to the UK.
Chief Crown Prosecutor reveals Anna Sacoolas is charged with causing Harry Dunn’s death by dangerous driving
Chief Crown Prosecutor Janine Smith said: ‘Following the death of Harry Dunn in Northamptonshire, the Crown Prosecution Service has today authorised Northamptonshire Police to charge Anne Sacoolas with causing death by dangerous driving.
‘The Director of Public Prosecutions has met with Harry Dunn’s family to explain the basis of the decision we have made following a thorough review of the evidence available.
‘May I remind all concerned that criminal proceedings against Anne Sacoolas are now active and that she has a right to a fair trial. It is extremely important that there should be no reporting, commentary or sharing of information online which could in any way prejudice these proceedings.’
‘My other hope, and it’s more of a plea, is that Anne Sacoolas now has to live with this for the rest of her life. It may do her a world of good in her own mental health to come back and at least face a court of law and take whatever punishment they decide is appropriate in this matter.’
Footage broadcast on Sky News showed Mrs Charles and Mr Dunn hugging and in tears after they learned charges would be brought yesterday.
Mrs Charles said: ‘Three months of fighting, we’ve done it. I’m proud that I could carry out my promise to one of my kids.
‘The promise that I made that we would get that justice. I’ve managed to fulfill the promise. It means everything.
‘I would never have rested properly ever without being able to carry out that promise I made on the night we lost him.’
While his father, Mr Dunn, also said in emotional Sky News video footage, that the news was ‘amazing’ and that ‘we’ve got what we wanted’. He added: ‘Whatever happens now it doesn’t matter.’
The lawyer for the Dunn family, Mark Stephens, told reporters the family was informed of the decision before Mrs Sacoolas.
Mr Stephens said: ‘The family have rightly been told first by the Director (of Public Prosecutions) Max Hill that this charge will take place.
‘While we were in that meeting, once the family had been told, Mrs Sacoolas was told through her lawyer that not only was she being charged but also extradition was being sought and then the same message was communicated to the Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and the Home Secretary.’
Reacting to the statement from the US State Department, Mr Stephens told Sky News: ‘I think that is what you would expect from politicians. They want to carry on implacably.
‘I am absolutely convinced that the CPS would not have moved forward if they did not think that was a realistic possibility and from my own analysis of the law I can tell you it is a realistic possibility because we know she was not entitled to diplomatic immunity irrespective of what the State Department said.’
He added: ‘I think the Americans are going to be forced to confront effectively the request for this extradition and they’ll have to do so in accordance with the law.
‘You can’t give diplomatic immunity to everybody. There’s a good and decent reason why ambassadors and senior officials should have it but you can’t suggest that every Tom, Dick and Harry, every member of the armed forces or national security agency of America is going to have diplomatic immunity and diplomatic status meaning whatever crime they commit, they can’t be held accountable.’
Extradition procedures are now underway to bring Ms Sacoolas to the UK. Chief Crown Prosecutor Janine Smith revealed that she is to be charged.
She said: ‘Following the death of Harry Dunn in Northamptonshire, the Crown Prosecution Service has today authorised Northamptonshire Police to charge Anne Sacoolas with causing death by dangerous driving.
‘The Director of Public Prosecutions has met with Harry Dunn’s family to explain the basis of the decision we have made following a thorough review of the evidence available.
‘May I remind all concerned that criminal proceedings against Anne Sacoolas are now active and that she has a right to a fair trial.’
A Northamptonshire Police spokeswoman added: ‘We welcome the charging decision announced today by the Crown Prosecution Service in relation to Anne Sacoolas.
‘However, because criminal proceedings are now active, it would be inappropriate for us to comment further at this time.’
After the charging decision, Harry’s mother Charlotte Charles said: ‘My son died on August 27, doing what he loved most, riding his beloved motorbike.
‘He was riding perfectly safely that evening. He had his whole life in front of him and he was taken from us far too young.
‘The pain of our loss eats away inside us. It is constant and unrelenting.’
Charlotte Charles, mother of Harry Dunn, arrives with Harry’s step-father at the CPS in Westminster yesterday
Addressing the charging decision, Mrs Charles said: ‘On behalf of our family, I would just like to say that we are relieved that Anne Sacoolas has finally been charged in respect of Harry’s death.
‘Northamptonshire Police told us that we had a less than 1% chance of having anyone held accountable for Harry’s death.
‘Were it not for our friend and neighbour Radd Seiger, taking up the matter on our behalf who became our adviser and spokesman without any fee at all, and our determination to uphold our promise to Harry as he lay dying in hospital that we would get justice for him, we would not be where we are.
‘No one should ever have to go through what we have been through. We are so grateful for all the support the public and media have given us.
‘It is their loud voices and fear that the same thing could happen to them, that has focused the minds of those in authority and ensured that this was not swept under the carpet.
‘We now expect Anne Sacoolas to be treated in the same way as any other person and to be subject to the same legal process as the rest of us would be.’
Under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, families of diplomats are granted immunity from arrest or detention, with the sending state able to issue a waiver of that immunity.
According to the CPS, the immunity does not apply to dependants of consular officials based outside of London.
The force eventually passed the completed file of evidence to the prosecution service on November 1 – with Wednesday’s charging decision coming just under seven weeks later.
Extradition between the US and the UK is governed by a treaty signed by both countries in 2003, and requests prepared by the CPS are sent by the Home Office to the requested state – in this case the US – through the diplomatic route.
Meanwhile Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Friday a review into the immunity arrangements at Croughton for US personnel and their families had concluded.
Harry Dunn, pictured in January 2014, with his newborn niece Lola Harber. He died in a collision outside RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire in August
The teenager was killed when his motorbike crashed into a car driven by US diplomat’s wife Anne Sacoolas, 42, outside RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire (pictured) on August 27
It found that it was an ‘anomaly’ that family members had ‘greater protection from UK criminal jurisdiction than the officers themselves’.
Mr Raab added: ‘On the basis of the Review, I have instructed my officials to begin discussions with the US on the most effective way to address this anomaly.’
Harry’s death was the start of three months’ worth of separate legal battles for the teenager’s family – a judicial review against the Foreign Office, a referral of Northamptonshire Police to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), an investigation into the US administration’s handling of the case and a civil claim against Sacoolas herself.
Since the investigation into the teenager’s death was launched, the family have taken their fight to the US and even met President Donald Trump at the White House.
The meeting with Mr Trump also sparked controversy after it later emerged that Sacoolas was sat in the room next door ready to meet with Harry’s parents – an offer the teenager’s family refused.
The decision to charge the suspect came just days after Mrs Charles was left ‘utterly devastated’ by footage which showed Sacoolas reversing out of her driveway at her home in the state of Virginia.
Timeline of key events following 19-year-old Harry Dunn’s death
Anne Sacoolas has been charged with causing death by dangerous driving by the Crown Prosecution Service.
Here are the key events following 19-year-old Harry Dunn’s death:
August 27: Motorcyclist Harry Dunn collides with a Volvo outside RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire.
Harry is taken to the John Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford, but is pronounced dead shortly after arrival.
August 28: Northamptonshire Police interview 42-year-old suspect Anne Sacoolas, who is later granted diplomatic immunity.
September 15: Sacoolas leaves the country on a United States Air Force plane, but the Dunn family are not informed of her departure until three weeks later.
Northamptonshire Police are also not told that she has left the UK.
October 4: Harry’s parents, Charlotte Charles and Tim Dunn, call on US President Donald Trump to intervene and waive immunity for Sacoolas.
October 5: Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab urges US Ambassador Woody Johnson to waive immunity for Sacoolas.
October 6: Police write to the US Embassy in London to demand immunity is waived for Sacoolas.
October 7: Prime Minister Boris Johnson says the US should ‘reconsider its position’ on the immunity given to Sacoolas.
October 9: Mrs Charles and Mr Dunn attend a meeting with the Foreign Secretary which leaves them ‘angry and frustrated’ and feeling as though it was a ‘publicity stunt’.
Mr Johnson speaks to Mr Trump personally to ask him to reconsider the US’s position on the immunity granted to Sacoolas.
October 12: Sacoolas breaks her silence and issues a statement through her lawyer, saying the crash left her ‘devastated’.
October 13: The Foreign Office writes to Mr Dunn’s family saying Sacoolas does not have diplomatic immunity.
It becomes clear that her husband was an intelligence officer and not a registered diplomat in a recognised role, and therefore neither he nor his wife are entitled to diplomatic immunity.
October 14: Mr Dunn’s family hold a press conference in New York after taking their fight for justice to the US.
October 15: Mr Dunn’s family announce their intention to launch a judicial review into the advice given by the Foreign Office to Northamptonshire Police over the diplomatic immunity given to Sacoolas.
The White House calls an ‘urgent’ meeting with Mr Dunn’s family and they have talks with President Trump.
Mrs Charles and Mr Dunn refuse to meet Sacoolas, who was in the room next door as they met Mr Trump.
October 20: The Dunn family are told Northamptonshire Police have passed a file to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for a charging decision.
October 25: Radd Seiger, the spokesman for Harry’s family, confirms they would be taking legal action against the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and referring Northamptonshire Police to the Independent Office for Police Conduct over their roles in the investigation.
October 31: Northamptonshire Police confirm that they had interviewed the suspect in the case in the US and were passing the file of evidence over to the CPS.
Superintendent Sarah Johnson said: ‘We can confirm that we have completed an interview of the suspect in connection with the death of Harry Dunn, the details of which will be provided to the CPS for consideration alongside the rest of the evidential file already submitted.’
November 10: In a letter to Mr Dunn’s family, the FCO says the legal claim against them and Mr Raab was ‘without foundation’.
It also said it would ‘oppose and seek costs’ for any judicial review.
November 12: Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry criticises Mr Raab for ‘threatening financial hardship’ on the Dunn family.
December 17: Mr Dunn’s family meet with Mr Raab again, and the Foreign Secretary then urged Ms Sacoolas to ‘come back to the UK and co-operate with the criminal justice process’.
December 20: The CPS charges Sacoolas with causing death by dangerous driving.