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US intelligence officer’s wife charged over crash death of Harry Dunn, 19
20 December 2019, 13:44
The wife of a US intelligence officer has been charged with causing the death by dangerous driving of teenager Harry Dunn, who died in a crash in August.
The 19-year-old’s parents learnt of the decision to charge Anne Sacoolas after a meeting with officials at the Crown Prosecution Service on Friday, according to the family's spokesman Radd Seiger.
Harry was killed when his motorbike crashed into a car allegedly driven by Mrs Sacoolas outside RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire on August 27.
The 42-year-old left the country shortly after the incident and subsequently claimed diplomatic immunity.
The US State Department branded the decision "disappointing, unhelpful and will not bring a resolution closer."
After the charging decision, Harry's mother Charlotte Charles said: "My son died on August 27, doing what he loved most, riding his beloved motorbike.
"He was riding perfectly safely that evening. He had his whole life in front of him and he was taken from us far too young.
"The pain of our loss eats away inside us. It is constant and unrelenting."
Addressing the charging decision, Mrs Charles added: "On behalf of our family, I would just like to say that we are relieved that Anne Sacoolas has finally been charged in respect of Harry's death.
"Northamptonshire Police told us that we had a less than 1 per cent chance of having anyone held accountable for Harry's death.
"Were it not for our friend and neighbour Radd Seiger, taking up the matter on our behalf who became our adviser and spokesman without any fee at all, and our determination to uphold our promise to Harry as he lay dying in hospital that we would get justice for him, we would not be where we are.
"No one should ever have to go through what we have been through. We are so grateful for all the support the public and media have given us.
"It is their loud voices and fear that the same thing could happen to them, that has focused the minds of those in authority and ensured that this was not swept under the carpet.
"We now expect Anne Sacoolas to be treated in the same way as any other person and to be subject to the same legal process as the rest of us would be."
The State Department statement added: "The United States has been clear that, at the time the accident occurred, and for the duration of her stay in the UK, the driver in this case had status that conferred diplomatic immunities.
"The Foreign Secretary stated the same in Parliament.
"It is the position of the United States government that a request to extradite an individual under these circumstances would be an egregious abuse.
"The use of an extradition treaty to attempt to return the spouse of a former diplomat by force would establish an extraordinarily troubling precedent.
"We do not believe that the UK's charging decision is a helpful development."
A file of evidence was handed to the CPS on November 1 after Northamptonshire Police interviewed Mrs Sacoolas in the US.
Chief Crown Prosecutor Janine Smith, said: “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.
“The Director of Public Prosecutions has met with Harry Dunn’s family to explain the basis of the decision we have made following a thorough review of the evidence available.
“May I remind all concerned that criminal proceedings against Anne Sacoolas are now active and that she has a right to a fair trial. It is extremely important that there should be no reporting, commentary or sharing of information online which could in any way prejudice these proceedings.”
Under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, families of diplomats are granted immunity from arrest or detention, with the sending state able to issue a waiver of that immunity.
"If there is a charging decision from the Crown Prosecution Service, I urge her to come back to the United Kingdom and co-operate with the criminal justice process."
According to the CPS, the immunity does not apply to dependants of consular officials based outside of London.
The latest development comes after the parents had a "warm" meeting with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on Tuesday in which he told them the Government is doing "everything it can" to get justice.
After the meeting, Mr Raab said: "I appeal to Anne Sacoolas herself to do the right thing.
Mr Raab's meeting with Harry's family came after Northamptonshire Chief Constable Nick Adderley said he had sent a written apology to the teenager's parents after a "breakdown" in communication.
Since the investigation into the teenager's death was launched, the family have taken their fight to the US and even met President Donald Trump at the White House.
The decision to charge the suspect came just days after Mrs Charles was left "utterly devastated" by footage which showed Sacoolas reversing out of her driveway at her home in the state of Virginia.
A Northamptonshire Police spokeswoman, said: "We welcome the charging decision announced today by the Crown Prosecution Service in relation to Anne Sacoolas.
"However, because criminal proceedings are now active, it would be inappropriate for us to comment further at this time."