British prosecutors on Friday announced plans to charge the wife of a U.S. intelligence officer with causing the death of a 19-year-old who died in August.
Anne Sacoolas, 45, was given diplomatic immunity after the Aug. 27 crash that claimed Harry Dunn’s life, Reuters reported. Authorities said she struck Dunn, who was on a motorcycle, near Royal Air Force Croughton, a military base in central England used by American officials, while she was driving on the wrong side of the road, according to The Guardian.
"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," Janine Smith, chief crown prosecutor for East Midlands, said Friday in a statement. "May I remind all concerned that criminal proceedings against Anne Sacoolas are now active and that she has a right to a fair trial."
Officials with the U.S. State Department reiterated in a statement Friday that Sacoolas had diplomatic immunity during her stay in the U.K. and that prosecutors’ decision to charge her was not a “helpful development."
“We are disappointed by today’s announcement and fear that it will not bring a resolution closer,” the statement said. “This was a tragic accident, a young man has lost his life, and his family is grieving.”
Dunn’s family, which has pushed for charges to be filed against Sacoolas, greeted the news with tears and hugs in an emotional video shared by Sky News.
“I carried out my promise to one of my kids, the promise that I made that we would get that justice,” said Dunn’s mother, Charlotte Charles, according to Sky News. “I’ve managed to fulfill the promise. It means everything.”
Sacoolas claimed diplomatic immunity after the crash, though officials with the United Kingdom’s Foreign Office later said her husband was not registered as a diplomat in a recognized role, Bloomberg reported. Officials with the Crown Prosecution Service also said immunity wouldn’t have extended to cover dependents of consular officials outside of London, according to BBC News.
Sacoolas struck and killed Dunn after being in England for three weeks, The Guardian reported, prompting speculation that she might not yet have adjusted to driving on the left side of the road rather than the right.
“This was an accident, and a criminal prosecution with a potential penalty f fourteen years imprisonment is simply not a proportionate response,” Sacoolas’ attorney, Amy Jeffress, said Friday in a statement obtained by ITV News.
“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 honor Harry’s memory. We will continue that dialogue in an effort to move forward with 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.”
Dunn’s family traveled to the White House in October and met with President Donald Trump in a bid to convince Sacoolas to return to the U.K. They rejected an offer to meet with Sacoolas there.
“We made it very clear, as we’ve said all along ... we would still love to meet with her but it has to be on our terms and on U.K. soil,” Charles told reporters in October, according to Sky News. “She needs to come back and face the justice system.”
The Dunn case sparked outrage in the U.K. and began a tug-of-war between British and American officials over who is covered under diplomatic immunity.
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