Mother of Harry Dunn slams son's car crash killer a 'huge coward'
Mother of Harry Dunn slams wife of US diplomat who killed her son in a crash a ‘huge coward’ after she stayed in the US instead of facing UK court for sentencing
- Harry Dunn’s killer has been handed an eight month suspended sentence today
- Harry, 19, was mowed down by US diplomat Anne Sacoolas in August 2019
- Sacoolas pleaded guilty to causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving
- But she failed to attend the Old Bailey today on advice from US Government
- Harry’s mother branded her a ‘huge coward’ for failing to attend the hearing
The mother of teenager Harry Dunn has branded the wife of a US diplomat a ‘huge coward’ after she failed to appear at a sentencing for killing him in a crash.
US citizen Anne Sacoolas, 45, was yesterday sentenced at the Old Bailey to eight months in prison suspended for 12 months for causing the death of Mr Dunn on August 27, 2019.
Following the crash outside RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire, Harry was flung from his motorcycle as Sacoolas’ Volvo XC90 burst into flames. He later died in hospital.
But Sacoolas failed to appear at the Old Bailey to be sentenced yesterday, instead taking the advice of a government employer not to attend court. The decision has left Harry’s family ‘absolutely fuming’ as it made the sentence effectively unenforceable.
Sacoolas refused to answer any questions following the sentencing when approached by a reporter
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
Harry Dunn’s stepfather Bruce Charles and mother Charlotte Charles speak to media after the sentencing of Anne Sacoolas
The family of Harry Dunn (left to right) mother Charlotte Charles, stepfather Bruce Charles, stepmother Tracey Dunn, father Tim Dunn and family advisor Radd Seiger, pictured arriving at the Old Bailey this afternoon for the sentencing of Anne Sacoolas
Harry Dunn’s parents Charlotte Charles (left) and Tim Dunn (right) have pleaded for Sacoolas to acknowledge responsibility for their son’s death
27 August 2019: Harry Dunn, 19, killed while riding his motorcycle near Croughton, Northamptonshire near the exit to RAF Croughton, when it collided with a car travelling in the opposite direction.
28 August 2019: Suspect Anne Sacoolas is interviewed by police. Northamptonshire police request a diplomatic immunity waiver.
16 September 2019: Foreign office informs police that the waiver had been declined and that Sacoolas had left the UK on a US Air Force aircraft.
15 October 2019: Charlotte Charles and Tim Dunn take their campaign for justice to the US where they meet with President Trump at the White House. They refuse meet the suspect, who was waiting in a room next door.
31 October 2019: Northamptonshire police interview Sacoolas in the US after requesting permission to do so.
25 November 2019: Dunn’s parents submit a judicial review of the Foreign Secretary’s actions over the extension of diplomatic immunity to intelligence staff and families at RAF Croughton.
20 December 2019: Crown Prosecution Service announces that Sacoolas to be charged with causing death by dangerous driving and that it was starting extradition proceedings against her.
10 January: Home Office formally requests the extradition of Sacoolas to face charges in the United Kingdom.
23 January: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo formally rejects request for extradition.
28 April: Charlotte and Tim write a letter to the US Government, urging it to change its mind on the diplomatic immunity granted to Sacoolas.
11 May: An Interpol Red Notice is issued for Sacoolas’ arrest.
May 12: The US State Department says the decision not to extradite Sacoolas is ‘final’ after Interpol notice claims.
May 20: Mr Dunn’s mother calls for Mr Raab’s resignation.
July 22: Mr Raab announces the ‘anomaly’ which allowed Sacoolas to claim diplomatic immunity following the road crash that killed Mr Dunn has been amended.
August 25: The Lord Chancellor said Attorney General Suella Braverman was considering the possibility of trying Sacoolas virtually or in her absence.
September 9: Mr Dunn’s parents file a civil claim against Sacoolas in the US.
September 10: Sacoolas’s legal representatives admit the suspect had been driving on the wrong side of the road for 20 seconds prior to the crash.
November 24: Mr Dunn’s parents lose their High Court battle with the Foreign Office over the diplomatic immunity asserted on behalf of Sacoolas.
January 24: The Foreign Office apologises after ‘unprofessional and unacceptable language’ was used by officials in internal emails about Mr Dunn’s bereaved family.
January 28: New US President Joe Biden’s administration maintains the position that the decision not to extradite Sacoolas is ‘final’.
February 4: The Alexandria District Court in Virginia hears Sacoolas and her husband Jonathan’s work in intelligence was a ‘factor’ in their departure from the UK after the road crash.
March 9: Sacoolas’s lawyer says the suspect is willing to complete community service.
June 12: Mr Raab says the UK Government would be seeking a ‘virtual trial or process’ for Sacoolas.
July 2: Mr Dunn’s parents give evidence under oath in their ‘depositions’ as part of the civil claim for damages filed in the US.
September 21: Mr Dunn’s parents and Sacoolas reach a ‘resolution’ in the civil claim for damages filed in the US.
September 22: Mr Dunn’s mother says she is ‘very confident’ a criminal case will take place against Sacoolas.
October 22: Sacoolas pleads guilty to causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving.
December 22: Sacoolas is sentenced to an eight month sentence suspended for 12 months.
Speaking to reporters outside the Old Bailey, Harry’s mother Charlotte Charles blasted her son’s killer.
She said: ‘She should have been there. I think it’s despicable that she didn’t come over on the judge’s orders. Huge coward.’
Meanwhile, Sacoolas refused to answer any questions following the sentencing.
Approached by a Sky News reporter, she was asked: ‘What words do you have for Harry Dunn’s family?’
She replied: ‘Have a nice day.’
Earlier, speaking after the sentencing, Ms Charles also said: ‘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.’
And asked if she would meet Sacoolas, Ms Charles said: ‘Too much too late now.’
She also accused British authorities of having ‘let us down’ badly following the death of her son.
She told Sky News that the US are ‘not my favourite and they are never going to be’, adding that ‘the UK really let us down badly in the beginning’.
Ms Charles continued: ‘They are starting to come good, I think. But I think I need to reserve judgement for now.’
Family spokesman Radd Seiger also said: ‘Our real enemy here isn’t Anne Sacoolas, our real enemy here is the US government, who after Harry’s death decided instead of doing the right thing for the family, decided to kick them in the stomach.’
He described the case as ‘one of the most extraordinary legal cases in English history’, adding that he was in awe of Harry’s parents for their persistent campaigning.
Mr Seiger went on: Today is the end of the criminal phase and again the suggestion at the time was that this family was never going to get justice and that was never going to happen.
‘So, today is victory day. We can close this off now, and she has a very serious sentence.
‘Today is about thinking about Harry, and today is about thinking about the parents. They are heroes in my view. But we now move forward to the next phase of our campaign.
‘The parents want to leave a legacy for Harry, which is that this will never happen again.’
It came after the court heard that Harry begged a bystander ‘don’t let me die’ after he was knocked off his motorbike by the American diplomat driving on the wrong side of the road.
Sacoolas had earlier admitted causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving, but she was advised by her government employer not to attend her sentencing hearing today.
Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb revealed she received a ‘barrier’ from the US Government refusing to allow Mrs Sacoolas’ attendance to face justice.
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said he hoped the judgment ‘provides some closure’ to Harry Dunn’s family and said ‘important lessons’ had been learned from the case.
Today, Sacoolas appeared to wipe a tear as she listened to a harrowing statement from Dunn’s mother at her sentencing hearing in Court One of the Old Bailey before Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb.
The mother told the court she was left ‘absolutely fuming’ on learning the US government had advised her not to travel to the UK to face justice, making the sentence effectively unenforceable.
Speaking in a packed Court One, Mrs Charles wept as she said: ‘Harry just disappeared out of my life that night, shattering my existence forever.
‘His passing haunts me every minute of every day and I’m not sure how I’m ever going to get over it.’
‘I made a promise to Harry in the hospital that we would get him justice and a mother never breaks a promise to her son.’
Passing sentence, Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb said: ‘A request for your extradition was submitted in 2020, it was denied.
‘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.’
Opening the facts, Duncan Atkinson KC told how Mr Dunn was fatally injured at about 8.20pm on August 27 2019 when his Kawaski motorbike crashed with Sacoolas’s Volvo.
At the time of the collision, Sacoolas was driving two of her children home from a barbeque at Croughton US Air Base.
Mr Dunn had spent the afternoon with his best friend, Robert Hill, and was on his way home on his motorbike.
Mr Atkinson said: ‘He was described as being his normal self, happy and joking.’
There was an ‘explosion and fire’ following the collision, in which Mrs Sacoolas was on the wrong side of the road.
‘Harry Dunn was thrown on the front of the Volvo, then over the vehicle … striking the rear window before coming to rest behind it.
‘(The Volvo’s) rear window had been smashed and its airbags had been activated. The motorbike itself had extensive fire damage.’
The collision happened on the B4031, a two-carriageway road, between Croughton village and Croughton US Air Base in Northamptonshire, with a 40mph speed limit.
Mr Atkinson told how another motorist, Jennifer Hewitt, came upon the Volvo, on the wrong side of the road, with an object on fire in front of it which she realised was a motorbike.
He said: ‘She saw the defendant standing at the side of the road with her two children.
‘The defendant was disoriented, very distressed, and shocked, and said ‘I’ve had a head-on collision with a motorbike. It’s all my fault, I was on the wrong side of the road’.
‘She added ‘I’ve only been here a couple of weeks’.’
Ms Hewitt then saw Mr Dunn lying on the verge at the side of the road, near the Volvo. According to her, he was face down, but conscious. He repeatedly said ‘don’t let me die’.’
Ms Hewitt called the emergency services and tried to reassure Mr Dunn, the court heard.
Police arrived at the scene at 8.28pm and found smoke coming from Mr Dunn’s bike and the teenager face-down on the verge. He had suffered leg injuries and told officers ‘the car was on the wrong side of the road’.
The prosecutor said Anne Sacoolas told police at the scene she had ‘made a mistake’ and that she was ‘so stupid’.
‘The police observed that the defendant had her head in her hands and was crying. She told them she had ‘made a mistake’ and said ‘I was so stupid’.
‘The police confirmed that she complied fully with their requests at the scene. She acknowledged she was driving on the wrong side of the road.’
Harry Dunn’s mother broke down in court as she spoke of how her son was ‘so senselessly and cruelly taken from us’.
She told the Old Bailey: ‘I am Harry’s mother. My world turned upside down on 27 August 2019.
‘My beautiful son Harry, twin brother of Niall, is gone and is never coming back.
US citizen Sacoolas (pictured in Virginia) struck the teenage motorcyclist in a road crash outside US military base RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire on August 27, 2019
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
(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
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
Harry’s mother: ‘The thought of him suffering haunts me’
Harry Dunn’s mother Charlotte Charles continued: ‘My whole life planning was centred around my boys and now Harry has gone I don’t know how to fill the void.
‘Sleep is difficult. Waking up is worse.
‘The thought of Harry suffering before he died and his passing itself is always there and always will be.
‘I just want to wrap my arms around him, cuddle him, love him, talk to him and I can’t any more.
‘It is just so cruel what has happened. I’ll never be able to put any kids that Harry might have had on my knees and bounce them up and down like any grandma would be able to, or look into their eyes and wonder at how much they looked like Harry.’
‘The bond between a mother and her children is a special one. My bond has been torn apart and although he is not here with me physically, I hope one day to be able to rebuild the bond between he and I.
‘When Harry was little, I often wondered what he would grow up to be like as an adult. Well, he didn’t let me down.
‘He turned out to be every bit as special as I hoped he would be. Cheeky, happy, hard working, popular, caring and he knew right from wrong, which I was so proud of.
‘He was one in a million and his smile and laughter were infectious. His passing has left a gaping whole in every fibre of my entire being.’
‘For 19 years, I had the enormous privilege and joy of nurturing and raising Harry, who was the light of my life before he was so senselessly and cruelly taken from us.’
Anne Sacoolas appeared to wipe away a tear as Mrs Charles read her victim impact statement.
Mrs Charles said: ‘I didn’t make it to the hospital in time before he passed and the thought of that haunts me to my core.
‘My job is to comfort my children and I wasn’t there for Harry to comfort him in what must have been an awful and painful, slow death, particularly as he lay on the side of the road waiting for an ambulance bleeding to death.
‘I beat myself up over and over again and wish I had left work earlier so that I could have gotten to him in time.
‘If I had left work on time that night, I would have been able to delay him leaving the house, so that he wouldn’t have been travelling along the same road as Anne Sacoolas.’
The court heard Sacoolas had called her husband to the scene and was seen to be crying with her head in her hands.
She told officers she had ‘made a mistake’ and said ‘I was so stupid’, Mr Atkinson said.
A breath test was negative for alcohol and Sacoolas acknowledged she was driving on the wrong side of the road, he said.
Mr Dunn was taken to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, where he died from his injuries at 10.50pm.
In mitigation, Anne Sacoolas’s defence barrister Ben Cooper KC said the US citizen had received death threats via email and telephone, and her family had been forced to relocate following Harry Dunn’s death.
Reading a statement on behalf of the defendant, Mr Cooper said her actions caused her ‘regret every single day’, adding: ‘There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about Harry.’
Mr Cooper said Sacoolas ‘did not ask’ for the diplomatic immunity asserted on her behalf by the US government, nor did she have an opportunity to have a say in the refusal of an extradition request submitted by the Home Office.
Anne Saccolas: ‘I too deeply grieve for Harry and his family’
Anne Sacoolas has expressed her sorrow over the ‘tragic mistake’ that caused the death of a teenage motorcyclist, saying: “I too deeply grieve for Harry and his family.”
The mother of three wiped away tears when she appeared at the Old Bailey by video link from the United States to be sentenced over the death of Harry Dunn in August 2019.
Her lawyer Ben Cooper KC read out a statement from the US citizen, who had been advised by her government not to attend in person.
In her statement, she said: ‘I want to again extend my sincerest condolences to Harry Dunn’s family and friends.
‘My tragic mistake led to the loss of Harry and I live with this regret every single day. There is not a day that goes by that Harry isn’t on my mind and I am deeply sorry for the pain that I have caused.
‘It’s for this reason that I have been so committed to a resolution to this case since 2019.
‘I know there is nothing I can say to change what has happened. I only hope that the truth and a resolution to this case will bring a measure of comfort and peace.
‘As always, I remain willing to meet and apologise to Harry’s family directly if that would support their healing.
‘Harry was a young man with his whole life ahead of him. I cannot imagine the loss and I too deeply grieve for Harry and his family.
‘I am grateful that I could express my profound remorse to the court and to Harry’s friends and family.
‘August 27, 2019 changed the lives of so many, and I pray for healing. I kindly ask the media for privacy. Thank you.’
He said the defendant left the country on a commercial flight as her family were redeployed on the decision of her government.
Sentencing Anne Sacoolas, Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb told the defendant: ‘The impact with the front of your car threw him onto the front of your car, and over it and onto the road.
‘You got out, realised what had happened and you were very distressed.
‘You confirmed to the police that what happened was your fault and you had been on the wrong side of the road.
‘You were not arrested at the time, you did not remain in the United Kingdom … and you submitted to a voluntary interview with police in Washington DC.
Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb told the defendant: ‘At no point during these proceedings was it suggested that you were not free to travel.
‘There could be little reason where a young man had met his death for you not to be required to attend for sentence.’
Speaking about the renewed application for the defendant to appear via video-link, the judge said: ‘A week before that date, the court received a renewal of an application for you to appear via live link which made reference to harassment you and your family had received.
‘A request was made on your behalf for a delay of a week to obtain further evidence – this was allowed.’
The judge said she then received ‘for the first time in these criminal proceedings’ what she described as a ‘barrier’ to her attendance in court from the US government.
Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb said she received a statement from the US administration, saying: ‘The US government does not in any way support Mrs Sacoolas’ appearance at this hearing.
‘Her return could place significant US interests at risk.’
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said: ‘Anne Sacoolas has finally been sentenced in a British court.
‘Since Harry’s death in August 2019, we have been clear that Ms Sacoolas should return to the UK to face British justice.
‘Since she chose not to, virtual hearings were arranged as the most viable way to bring the case to court and give justice to Harry’s family.
‘I want to pay tribute to the incredible resolve of Harry’s family and I hope that the judgment provides some closure.
‘We have learnt important lessons from this tragic incident, including improvements to the process around exemptions from diplomatic immunity and ensuring the US takes steps to improve road safety around RAF Croughton.’
Following the sentencing, Northamptonshire Police praised Harry’s family for ‘shining a light’ on the case in their quest for justice.
The force said in a statement: “Throughout this long process, we have been determined to deliver a judicial outcome for Harry’s family.
‘They have spent more than three years shining a light on this case in their quest for justice for him. While their tragic loss will always be felt, we hope they now feel justice has been delivered and they can begin to move forward with their lives.
‘This was an extremely complex and challenging case, but Northamptonshire Police carried out a full and thorough investigation following the tragic events of August 27, 2019.
‘Through the determined efforts of colleagues in our serious collision investigation unit, we were eventually able to bring a case file to our partners in the Crown Prosecution Service and, thanks to their diligence over a prolonged period of time, this ultimately led to the charging and later admission of guilt by Anne Sacoolas.’
A former Foreign Office minister who signed off an agreement which allowed the US government to assert diplomatic immunity on behalf of Anne Sacoolas has 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, told the PA news agency he was ‘horrified’ when the US administration 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 the agreements, or agreed to the agreements, that you are covered by diplomatic immunity when you weren’t actually acting as a diplomat,’ he said.
Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy also said: ‘Today’s judgment marks at least some justice after the Dunn family’s courageous and unwavering fight for Harry following his tragic death. Today we pay tribute to them.’
Max Hill KC, Director of Public Prosecutions, said: ‘We have today seen the end of the journey to secure justice for the family of Harry Dunn.
‘Many thought we’d never get to this point – but I hope it sends a clear message that we are steadfast in our commitment to bring people to justice.
‘Despite the challenges that arose as the case progressed, our expert prosecutors were able to secure a guilty plea and Sacoolas has now been sentenced for causing the death of Harry Dunn.
‘Harry Dunn’s family has shown immense strength and bravery throughout the long road to get to this point in the proceedings. Having met them, I know that their determination to secure justice has never wavered. Neither has ours.’
The Labour MP added: ‘The UK Government must be honest and transparent about its mistakes under Dominic Raab’s leadership and learn meaningful lessons from them. Sacoolas should not have been allowed to leave the country and the US should have waived her immunity.
‘The ordeal the family have had to endure – made worse by a series of failures in Foreign Office – must never be repeated. No other family can ever be allowed to go through the same.’
WHAT IS DIPLOMATIC IMMUNITY AND HOW DOES IT APPLY TO HARRY DUNN CASE?
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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