Harry Dunn’s mum has said it is “incredibly disappointing” Anne Sacoolas will not attend her sentencing for causing the crash that killed her son in person.
Charlotte Charles told the PA news agency she was “absolutely fuming” after hearing the US government had advised Anne Sacoolas not to attend court on Thursday, with an application for her to appear via video link granted.
Sacoolas, who is due to be sentenced on Thursday (8 December) was driving on the wrong side of the road when she crashed her Volvo killing the 19-year-old in August 2019.
The 45-year-old had diplomatic immunity asserted on her behalf by the US government after the crash near RAF Croughton, in Northamptonshire, and was able to leave the UK 19 days after the incident. Sacoolas pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving in October, where sentencing judge Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb urged her to return to Britain to face justice.
But, confirming a renewed application for her to appear via video-link has been granted, a court spokesman said: “The application made jointly by the prosecution and defence for Mrs Sacoolas to participate and be sentenced by live link has been renewed.
“The defence have supplied material in support of the application, including evidence that Mrs Sacoolas’s government employer has advised her not to attend in person. The judge has granted the application.”
After a plea was entered, Mr Dunn’s mother Charlotte Charles had said “of course” she wants Sacoolas to return to the UK to be sentenced.
What has Harry Dunn’s family said?
Giving her reaction to the advice given by the US government, Harry’s mumsaid: “If that’s right, then I’m absolutely fuming. We had all come to expect that Anne Sacoolas would at last be doing the right thing and coming back as ordered to by the judge. But to hear now that her government employer has interfered with that only compounds our misery.
“It makes us even more determined than ever, when the sentence is passed, to make sure that the US government never treats another British family so badly again.”
Commenting on proceedings now being held over video-link, Mrs Charles said: “When we were first told in 2021 that we would be getting justice after all, that was in the middle of the pandemic, it never mattered to us how Anne Sacoolas faced justice.
“What mattered to us was that she faced our justice system, not how she faced our justice system. We are overjoyed that our main campaign objective has been met.
“It is incredibly disappointing she won’t appear in person, but both she and the US government will have to live with the consequences of that, not us.” Asked what it would have meant for Sacoolas to appear in person in court, Mrs Charles told PA: “It’s what we’ve been asking for for the last three years, two months.
“It would mean everything – that would be the best way that she could try to find some redemption within our family. It would be the best way that she could show remorse, which Judge Cheema-Grubb pointed out very clearly.
“Even though that threw a curveball in and nobody was expecting her to come out with that – well done on that judge for doing that. It would have been the the best thing by a longshot.”
The family spokesman, Radd Seiger, previously told the PA news agency the teenager’s parents were “horrified” to learn the US Government is “actively interfering in our criminal justice system”. He said: “Harry’s family are victims of a serious crime and they have been kept in the dark completely about what is to come at Thursday’s hearing since Mrs Sacoolas’s guilty plea on October 20.
“We are horrified to learn that the United States Government is now actively interfering in our criminal justice system. Their ongoing cruel treatment of Harry’s parents is nothing short of inhumane and it continues to take a heavy toll on their mental health.
“If there is a genuine reason why Mrs Sacoolas should not appear in court on Thursday, as directed by the judge, then the parents would happily accept that. But on the face of it, it appears that this is nothing short of a cowardly act on the part of an oppressor.”
He added: “I have today asked for an urgent meeting with the Foreign Secretary James Cleverly to understand what action the British Government intends to take in response.”
Sacoolas has attended both previous court hearings via video-link from her lawyer’s offices in Washington DC. Adjourning sentencing at the previous hearing, Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb told Sacoolas although she could not compel her to face justice in person, it would provide “weighty evidence” of “genuine remorse”. The US State Department and Sacoolas’s representatives have been contacted for comment.