Campaign ends with promise ‘properly complete’ for Harry Dunn’s mother

Anne Sacoolas was sentenced at the Old Bailey to eight months in prison, suspended for 12 months.

Harry Dunn death
Harry Dunn death

Harry Dunn’s emotional mother has said the promise to her son to get justice is “properly complete” as his killer was finally sentenced.

The Dunn family spent more than three years campaigning for US citizen Anne Sacoolas to face a UK court – a fight that saw the teenager’s parents change laws and secure a meeting with former US president Donald Trump at the White House.

The 19-year-old’s killer, described by her own lawyer as an employee of the US State Department, was flown out of the UK on the orders of her country’s government, after she collided with Mr Dunn’s motorbike while driving on the wrong side of the road in Northamptonshire in August 2019.

Diplomatic immunity was asserted on her behalf by Mr Trump’s administration, and she was able to leave the country 19 days after the crash.

But after a “relentless” campaign, Sacoolas, 45, appeared before a High Court judge at the Old Bailey on Thursday, where she was handed an eight-month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months.

After immunity was asserted, the Dunn family were told by Northamptonshire Police that there was “less than 1% chance” of somebody being held accountable for the crash outside US military base RAF Croughton.

Former foreign secretary Dominic Raab was heavily criticised by the teenager’s parents, after court documents showed a senior diplomat at the Foreign Office had sent a text message to their US embassy counterpart saying they should “feel able” to put Sacoolas on the next flight home.

But after a high-profile media campaign in the US, and the closing of a loophole which enabled Mr Trump’s government to assert immunity on behalf of Sacoolas, they were offered the opportunity to have their son’s killer stand trial remotely.

Mr Dunn’s mother, Charlotte Charles, was able to speak in court before the defendant was sentenced, where she fought back tears to say: “His passing haunts me every minute of every day and I’m not sure how I’m ever going to get over it.

“I made a promise to Harry in the hospital that we would get him justice and a mother never breaks a promise to her son.”

Sentencing Sacoolas, Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb told the court the US government did not “in any way support Mrs Sacoolas’s appearing in person”, and she had received a statement from them which said: “Her return could place significant US interests at risk.”

Harry Dunn death
Harry Dunn (Family Handout/PA)

The judge said Mr Dunn’s death was the “highest degree of harm” but added: “I bear in mind this was a short period of driving and you were not familiar with English roads.

“I accept you feel genuine remorse.”

Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb added: “There is no doubt that the calm and dignified persistence of these parents and family of that young man has led through three years of heartbreak and effort to your appearance before this court and acknowledge your guilt.”

She told Sacoolas that while she was in the US, the sentence could not be enforced.

Harry Dunn death
Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb, watched by Harry Dunn’s family, as she passes sentence on Anne Sacoolas (right) (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

The mother-of-three pleaded guilty to causing Mr Dunn’s death by careless driving in October.

She was also disqualified from driving for 12 months.

Reflecting on the end of the family’s campaign, Mrs Charles told reporters: “Job done, promise complete. Properly, properly complete now.

“Anne Sacoolas now has a criminal record. Yep, Harry, we’ve done it.

Harry Dunn death
The family of Harry Dunn outside the Old Bailey (James Manning/PA)

“We would have been happy with anything – for us, it was just about doing the right thing.”

Sacoolas wiped away tears as she attended her sentencing on Thursday, remotely, from her lawyer’s office in Washington DC once again.

In mitigation, her lawyer Ben Cooper KC read a statement on her behalf in which she said she was “deeply sorry for the pain I have caused”.

He said Sacoolas had been subjected to death threats via email and telephone and her family had been forced to relocate.

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said he hoped the judgment in the Sacoolas case “provides some closure” to the Dunn family and that the Government had “learnt important lessons” around exemptions from diplomatic immunity.

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