Sunday 19 January 2020

Wife of US officer charged over road death of teen biker in UK

‘Immense’: Harry Dunn’s mother Charlotte Charles after meeting with the DPP in London. Photo: David Mirzoeff/PA Wire
‘Immense’: Harry Dunn’s mother Charlotte Charles after meeting with the DPP in London. Photo: David Mirzoeff/PA Wire

Kim Ripoll

The mother of Harry Dunn has said she feels "a huge step" has been made after the US suspect in the case was charged with causing death by dangerous driving.

Charlotte Charles was visibly emotional after the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said they had authorised Northamptonshire Police to charge Anne Sacoolas following her son's death in August.

She said that the family's efforts to "seek justice" since her son's death had been harder than she had imagined, as prosecutors begin the extradition process.

But a spokesman for the US State Department said it was "disappointed" the charge had been brought, and feared it would "not bring a resolution closer". In a statement, it maintained that Ms Sacoolas had diplomatic immunity at the time of the incident, adding: "It is the position of the United States government that a request to extradite an individual under these circumstances would be an egregious abuse."

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The wife of a US intelligence officer, Ms Sacoolas returned to her home country after the car she was driving allegedly collided with the 19-year-old's motorbike outside RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire, England, on August 27.

The 42-year-old suspect sparked an international controversy after claiming diplomatic immunity, despite the UK Foreign Office later saying Ms Sacoolas's husband was not a registered diplomat in a recognised role.

Following a meeting with the CPS at their London headquarters yesterday, Ms Charles said: "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."

She called the charge "one hell of an achievement as a family", adding: "I'm going to go and buy a Christmas tree and go decorate it in green lights, like so many of our supporters have done. I never thought I'd buy a Christmas tree this year, so thank you."

Accompanied by Harry's father, Tim Dunn, and family spokesman Radd Seiger, the family hugged as Ms Charles said it "was immense" that an extradition request would be sent to the US State Department.

Following the charging decision, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement: "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 co-operate with the criminal justice process."

Mr Dunn said he was "overwhelmed" by the decision, as he wiped away tears outside the CPS, calling it a "great day", while Ms Charles declined to answer a question about the potential sentence Ms Sacoolas would receive if convicted.

Chief crown prosecutor Janine Smith said: "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."

Ms Sacoolas was twice interviewed by Northamptonshire Police, once on the day after the crash and on another occasion by officers who travelled to the United States.

Harry's death was the start of three months 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 Ms Sacoolas herself.

Since the investigation into his 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 Ms Sacoolas was in the room next door, ready to meet Harry's parents - an offer the teenager's family refused.

Irish Independent

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