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Harry Dunn’s family ‘horrified’ US driver told not to go to sentencing

07 Dec 2022 By theguardian

Harry Dunn’s family ‘horrified’ US driver told not to go to sentencing

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The family of Harry Dunn have said they are "horrified" after learning the US government has advised their son's killer, Anne Sacoolas, not to attend her sentencing hearing in person.

In October, Sacoolas pleaded guilty to causing the death of the 19-year-old British teenager by careless driving, and is due to be sentenced on Thursday.

The sentencing judge, Ms Justice Cheema-Grubb, previously urged the 45-year-old to return to Britain to face justice but a court spokesperson confirmed on Tuesday a renewed application for her to appear via video link had been granted.

"The application made jointly by the prosecution and defence for Mrs Sacoolas to participate and be sentenced by live link, has been renewed," the spokesperson said.

"The defence have supplied material in support of the application including evidence that Mrs Sacoolas' government employer has advised her not to attend in person. The judge has granted the application."

Radd Seiger, an adviser and spokesperson for the family of Harry Dunn, said: "We are horrified to learn that the United States government is now actively interfering in our criminal justice system.

"Their ongoing cruel treatment of Harry's parents is nothing short of inhumane and it continues to take a heavy toll on their mental health."

He added that if there was a genuine reason why Sacoolas should not appear in court the family "would happily accept that".

"But on the face of it, it appears that this is nothing short of a cowardly act on the part of an oppressor," he said. Seiger said he had asked for an urgent meeting with the UK foreign secretary, James Cleverly, to understand what action the British government intended to take in response.

Sacoolas was driving on the wrong side of the road when she crashed her Volvo and killed Dunn, who was riding a motorcycle, outside the US military base RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire on 27 August 2019.

She left the UK after Dunn's death and had diplomatic immunity asserted on her behalf by the US administration, prompting a three-year campaign by the teenager's family to have the case brought to court.

After Sacoolas pleaded guilty, Cheema-Grubb said: "The personal attendance and voluntary surrender to the court of Mrs Sacoolas would provide weighty evidence indeed of genuine remorse."

She added that the offence carried a maximum sentence of five years' imprisonment.

"Any sentence I pass is unlikely to be enforceable while the defendant remains outside the United Kingdom," she said. "There is no order I can make to compel her appearance at the central criminal court for sentence. At the same time there is no barrier whatsoever to prevent her travelling to the UK for sentence."

Sacoolas has attended both previous court hearings via video link from her lawyer's office in Washington DC.

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