US citizen Anne Sacoolas admits responsibility for death of Harry Dunn


Emily Pennink and Josh Payne, PA

Thu, 20 October 2022 at 3:08 pm

A US citizen has admitted responsibility for the death of teenager Harry Dunn in a crash near a US military base.

Anne Sacoolas, 45, pleaded guilty to causing the 19-year-old motorcyclist’s death by careless driving in August 2019.

Sacoolas had diplomatic immunity asserted on her behalf by the US government following the crash near RAF Croughton, in Northamptonshire and was able to leave the UK 19 days after the incident.

In December 2019, the Crown Prosecution Service authorised Northamptonshire Police to charge her with causing Mr Dunn’s death by dangerous driving.

On Thursday, she denied that charge but admitted the lesser offence when she appeared in Court One of the Old Bailey by video link.

Harry Dunn death
US citizen Anne Sacoolas, 45, (right in TV screen) Harry Dunn’s alleged killer, appearing in court by video link (Liz Cook/PA)

Prosecutor Duncan Atkinson KC said the plea was accepted by the Crown.

The defendant, who is on unconditional bail, had identified herself before entering her pleas before senior judge Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb.

Mr Dunn’s family, who had long campaigned for his killer to face justice, were sitting in court.

Both Charlotte Charles and Tim Dunn held their heads in their hands as Sacoolas pleaded guilty.

Telling the court the Crown accepted the plea of causing death by careless driving, Mr Atkinson said: “The Crown recognises putting at risk a vulnerable road user is capable of amounting to dangerous driving.

Harry Dunn death
The mother of 19-year-old Harry Dunn, Charlotte Charles

“The prosecution has taken into account… the mitigation available to this defendant and the balance of justice.

“It has been considered at the very highest level.

“The Crown considers the plea of causing death by careless driving is one that is acceptable.”

Mr Atkinson said the Crown would not be proceeding to trial on the causing death by dangerous driving charge.

The guilty plea was watched by around 20 members of Harry Dunn’s family.

Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb urged Sacoolas to come to the UK to be sentenced in person, but admitted she had no power to force her.

Adjourning sentence until the end of November, she said the offence of causing death by careless driving carried a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment with a range of options from a medium-level community order to three years in custody.

Addressing the unusual way the hearing had been conducted with the defendant appearing from the United States, the judge said: “The fact that the defendant could not be compelled to attend court in person means there was no other way to obtain her plea to the charges.

“It was in the interests of justice in the particular circumstances of this case to grant a live link for this hearing.

“That is no reason in itself to grant a live link for sentence. Although I have not yet decided what sentence to impose, I very much have in mind the submissions as to the sentencings.

“Ms Sacoolas is a convicted offender and a consideration of the interests of justice now must include the ability to enforce any sentence or any ancillary order I impose.

“It is agreed any sentence I impose is likely to be unenforceable while the defendant remains outside the UK.

“I have to consider the reason why the defendant does not attend court in person. Alongside an early guilty plea one of the most powerful mitigating factors in cases of death by driving is the degree of remorse felt by the defendant.

“Attention has been rightly drawn to the remorse by Ms Sacoolas in co-operating with these proceedings at all.

“Despite her conviction today, there is no order I can make to compel her at the Central Criminal Court for sentence.

“I direct Ms Sacoolas attend court to be sentenced.

“If the sentence… is one that does not involve immediate custody there is to be no barrier to her returning home after the hearing.”

The judge reminded the court that the case concerned the “sudden and unexpected” death of a young man three years ago, adding: “Attendance would provide weighty evidence indeed of genuine remorse.”

The defendant acknowledged that she understood after Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb also imposed an interim driving ban and ordered a pre-sentence report to be prepared.

Sacoolas, who wore a white blouse with dark hair tied back, appeared composed throughout the hearing.

She only briefly appeared flustered when she mistakenly entered a not guilty plea to the lesser charge before quickly correcting herself.

Sentencing will be fixed at the Old Bailey in the week of November 28.

Published by anthonyhayble

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