Harry Dunn's family can bring civil damages claim against Anne Sacoolas, US court rules

16 February 2021, 20:29 | Updated: 17 February 2021, 11:51

Harry Dunn's family can bring a civil damages claim against Anne Sacoolas in the US, a court has ruled
Harry Dunn's family can bring a civil damages claim against Anne Sacoolas in the US, a court has ruled. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

A civil claim for damages can be brought against Anne Sacoolas by the family of Harry Dunn in the US, a judge has ruled

Ms Sacoolas had applied to dismiss the case on the grounds it should be heard in the UK, despite her legal team admitting she would not agree to face trial due to a "concern" she would not "receive fair treatment".

A hearing at a court in the Eastern District of Virginia had previously been told her work in intelligence was "especially a factor" in her departure and her Sacoolas family "fled" the UK for "issues of security".

She travelled back to the US after the State Department asserted diplomatic immunity on her behalf following a crash which killed Mr Dunn outside RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire in August 2019.

The 43-year-old was then charged with causing the teenager's death by dangerous driving but an extradition request was rejected by the US Government in January last year.

Due to her "refusal" to return to the UK, the Dunn family brought a civil claim for damages against her as "a last resort" in the hope of some sort of justice for their son.

In a judgment handed down on Tuesday, a judge dismissed Sacoolas's submissions that the UK was a "more convenient" forum, keeping the case in Virginia.

Judge Thomas Ellis also took into account the "firm support" of UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who submitted a letter to the court which read: "I strongly support (the Dunn family's) right to bring the case.

"It is of course for the US courts to decide the issue of venue but for our part the British Government takes the view that British citizens can bring their case in whichever court they think appropriate... I hope therefore (the Dunn family's) action in the United States is able to proceed."

Mr Dunn's mother Charlotte Charles said: "We are pleased and relieved at the court's decision.

"We only took this step as a last resort following the denial of justice in the extradition case on strong legal advice from our legal team."

Anne Sacoolas fled to the US after the crash and has "refused" to return to the UK
Anne Sacoolas fled to the US after the crash and has "refused" to return to the UK. Picture: Social media

Dunn family spokesperson Radd Seiger told LBC: "This is a really important step in the parent's pursuit for justice.

"The parents are suffering intensely at the moment are absolutely overwhelmed. And it's a moment of common sense."

On February 4, the family listened to Sacoolas's legal team submit the application to dismiss, in which the Alexandria district court was told Sacoolas and her husband Jonathan Sacoolas worked for the US State Department at the time of the crash.

Her barrister, John McGavin, told the court he could not "completely candidly" explain why the Sacoolas family left the UK, adding: "I know the answer, but I cannot disclose it."

Other motions Sacoolas's legal team submitted to dismiss the case will be heard on March 3 in Virginia.

An FCDO Spokesperson said: "We welcome this decision. We will continue to support the Dunn family to seek justice for Harry, including through our support for this civil case."