Harry Dunn suspect 'sorry' and 'would do community service' in US

9 March 2021, 07:53 | Updated: 10 March 2021, 05:11

Anne Sacoolas would be willing to complete community service over Harry Dunn's death
Anne Sacoolas would be willing to complete community service over Harry Dunn's death. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

The suspect in the death of Harry Dunn has said she is "truly sorry" for his family and is willing to do community service in the US.

Anne Sacoolas would be prepared to make a "contribution" in the 19-year-old's memory and to meet with his loved ones, her lawyer Amy Jeffress said.

The 43-year-old has "never denied" responsibility for the road collision that killed the motorcyclist, her legal representative added.

However, Ms Jeffress explained that due to the charge against Sacoolas in the UK not usually resulting in a prison sentence in the US, her client was not obliged to return to Britain to face trial.

The is because the US Government asserted diplomatic immunity on behalf of the 43-year-old after the road crash which killed Mr Dunn outside RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire in August, 2019.

Harry Dunn family's spokesman, Radd Seiger, said a criminal sentence is only "for a court to determine" and "not for any of us to discuss".

Read more: Harry Dunn's family 'can claim against suspect and her husband'

Read more: Harry's mum: 'I can still feel his hugs' 18 months on from his death

Sacoolas was charged with causing death by dangerous driving, but an extradition request submitted by the Home Office was rejected by the US State Department in January last year.

The 43-year-old and her legal team are trying to resolve the case in a way that would not involve returning to Britain, Ms Jeffress said.

"We understand that community service is a typical sentence for offences like this," Ms Jeffress said.

"We have offered, ever since over a year ago, that she would be willing to serve that kind of a sentence and to make a contribution in Harry's memory, to take other steps to try to bring some peace to the family."

She added that Sacoolas was "truly sorry for Harry's family and the pain that this has caused".

Read more: Dunn family can bring civil damages claim against Sacoolas, US court rules

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"She's willing to meet with the family to provide whatever information they are seeking, and we truly hope that we can do that and give the family some measure of peace," Ms Jeffress continued.

The lawyer said Sacoolas had only been in the UK for "a few weeks" when she had made the tragic mistake of "instinctively" driving her car on the wrong side of the road and colliding with Mr Dunn's motorcycle.

But, she added, such cases in the US are only prosecuted criminally if there is "evidence of recklessness that rises to the level of close to intent - drunk driving, distracted driving, a hit-and-run situation or excessive speeding".

Ms Jeffress continued: "But there was none of that here."

The legal representative told the BBC that she understood this was one of the reasons the US did not waive Sacoolas' diplomatic immunity.

She also denied reports Sacoolas had not called for help after the crash, saying she had flagged down another motorist who had called an ambulance while Sacoolas notified police at Croughton, where she worked with her husband for the US State Department.

The 43-year-old had cooperated with local police, Ms Jeffress said, supplied a zero-reading breathalyser test, surrendered her phone to show she had not been using it and was interviewed by officers for several hours.

Ms Jeffress' comments come a week after Mr Dunn's family were given the go-ahead to proceed with a civil claim for damages against Sacoolas and her husband.

A judge's ruling in Virginia has taken the Dunn family a step closer to a legal showdown with Sacoolas 18 months on from Harry's death.

If there is not a settlement in the case, the next legal step would be a "deposition", in which Sacoolas and her husband would be forced to provide their account of events outside of court.

Giving his reaction to Ms Jeffress's interview, Mr Seiger said: "It is good to see Mrs Jeffress, who I respect enormously, finally reaching out to the British public.

"However, I would encourage her to enter into dialogue with the Crown Prosecution Service in order to ensure that Mrs Sacoolas faces the UK justice system.

"It is not for either of us to try this case in public.

"We have one of the fairest legal systems in the world and it is vitally important that justice is not only done for Harry, but is seen to be done.

"Mrs Sacoolas must give a full account of what happened under oath in court and the matter must then be left in the hands of judge and jury.

"It is not for any of us to discuss what might be or what might not be the sentence. That is a matter ultimately for the court to determine."

Mr Dunn's mother, Charlotte Charles, added: "I made a promise to Harry the night he died that I would get him justice.

"There are no circumstances in which I am going to break that promise. You do not get to kill someone and walk away.

"This campaign has been all about accountability and ensuring that no-one is above the law."