US, UK end 'anomaly' allowing diplomatic immunity for American accused of running over British teen

Anne Sacoolas is accused of causing Harry Dunn's death by dangerous driving.

July 22, 2020, 11:24 AM

LONDON -- The U.S. and U.K. have agreed to end an "anomaly" that allowed Anne Sacoolas, the wife of an American diplomat accused of running over British teenager Harry Dunn last year, to claim diplomatic immunity.

"It's important that we have now agreed with the U.S. new arrangements that have closed the anomaly that led to the denial of justice in the heartbreaking case of Harry Dunn," U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab announced on Wednesday. "The new arrangements mean it could not happen again."

In this Oct. 15, 2019, file photo, a banner is shown near the RAF Croughton airbase in Northamptonshire, England, where Harry Dunn died when riding his motorcycle from his home.
Paul Howard/REX via Shutterstock, FILE

"I know these changes won't bring Harry back, and I appreciate the pain and suffering the family are still going through. But I hope this may bring some small measure of comfort to them, because I know they want to prevent any other family going through the same ordeal they have," he added.

Sacoolas is believed to have been driving the car that crashed into 19-year-old Dunn's motorcycle on a roadway in the village of Croughton, England, on the night of Aug. 27 last year, and was formally charged with causing death by dangerous driving in December. By that time, Sacoolas had long fled to the U.S. to claim diplomatic immunity, sparking a diplomatic rift between the two countries.

Radd Seiger, the Dunn family spokesperson, told ABC News that the ruling was a "huge springboard towards Anne Sacoolas returning." The Trump administration, he said, no longer have a "legal or moral leg to stand on."

"There are so many strands now to this campaign, you haven't seen anything yet," he said.

Northamptonshire Police, the police force in charge of the investigation, said they had been advised about an agreement with the U.S. government "to restrict the immunity from criminal jurisdiction of Embassy staff, officers and family members at RAF [Royal Air Force] Croughton."

"Northamptonshire Police remains committed to working with colleagues in the Crown Prosecution Service to ensure Anne Sacoolas is returned from the US to allow criminal proceedings to go ahead here in the UK," they said in a statement. The changes are not retrospective, they added.

Charlotte Charles, mother of Harry Dunn, and Dunn's stepfather Bruce Charles walk outside the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London, July 21, 2020.
Henry Nicholls/Reuters

The U.S. State Department has yet to comment on the announcement.

Dunn's family's pursuit for justice saw them meet President Trump in the White House in October, although they declined an invitation to meet Sacoolas herself, saying that they wished for an apology to be given back in the U.K.

Sacoolas remains in the U.S., and an extradition request was denied in January.

Charlotte Charles, Dunn's mother, told ABC News said she had a "positive reaction" and was "very pleased" with the ruling. Her son, she said, "absolutely and utterly deserves justice."

"I want to say thank you to everybody for their support," she said. "I just want them to know that our campaign is not going to die down after today. We are going to keep going. We don't feel that anybody who has taken a life should just be able to walk away with absolutely no justice being done. If the world has come to that, we're in a bit of trouble."

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