Anne Sacoolas’s employment status ‘never relevant to immunity’ – lawyers

Josh Payne, PA
·4-min read

Lawyers acting on behalf of Harry Dunn’s alleged killer have said her employment status has “never been relevant” to her diplomatic immunity.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, Anne Sacoolas’s legal team said the words of a judge’s ruling, which stated that the civil claim for damages against her will remain in the US, “has no impact or bearing” on the immunity asserted on her behalf.

A previous hearing at a court in the Eastern District of Virginia had been told her work in intelligence was “especially a factor” in her departure and the Sacoolas family “fled” the UK for “issues of security”.

Harry Dunn death
Anne Sacoolas has admitted driving on the wrong side of the road for 20 seconds before the crash that killed Harry Dunn (Steve Parsons/PA)

In the statement, the 43-year-old’s lawyers also said they are open to “mediation” in order to find a way forward with Mr Dunn’s family.

The 19-year-old was killed when a car crashed into his motorbike outside US military base RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire in August 2019.

The US State Department asserted diplomatic immunity on behalf of Sacoolas and she was then able to leave the UK.

She was charged with causing Mr Dunn’s death by dangerous driving and has since admitted driving on the wrong side of the road for 20 seconds before the crash.

An extradition request submitted by the Home Office was rejected by the US State Department in January last year.

Harry Dunn death
Anne Sacoolas’s lawyers have said they are open to ‘mediation’ in order to find a way forward for Harry Dunn’s family (Aaron Chown/PA)

Mr Dunn’s family said they are “very pleased” with the “strong indication” that Sacoolas is willing to find a way forward – with their spokesman urging the suspect’s legal team and the CPS to “engage… as urgently as possible”.

On Tuesday, Judge Thomas Ellis ruled that the civil claim against her should remain in the US, adding: “While it is commendable that defendant Anne Sacoolas admits that she was negligent and that her negligence caused Harry Dunn’s death, this does not equate acceptance of responsibility.

“Full acceptance of responsibility entails facing those harmed by her negligence and taking responsibility for her acts where they occurred, in the United Kingdom.”

Reacting to the judgment in a statement, Sacoolas’s lawyers said: “The ruling by Judge Ellis in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia was issued in the civil case brought by Harry Dunn’s family seeking monetary damages.

“The ruling has no impact or bearing on Anne Sacoolas’s diplomatic immunity.

“Anne Sacoolas’s employment status has never been relevant to her diplomatic immunity, which was based on her husband’s status as an accredited diplomat.

“The US and British Governments both concluded that Ms Sacoolas had diplomatic immunity by virtue of her husband’s role with the US embassy, and the UK High Court of Justice affirmed that conclusion in its ruling in November 2020.”

Speaking about finding a resolution in the case, the lawyers said: “As Anne has said repeatedly, she is devastated by this tragic accident and would do anything she could to bring Harry back.

“She has continuously expressed her deepest condolences to the family, and would very much like to find a path forward and to bring the family a measure of peace and closure.

“Anne and her personal attorney, Amy Jeffress, remain willing to discuss options, including mediation, to find a path forward towards a resolution.”

Reacting to the lawyers’ statement, Dunn family spokesman Radd Seiger told the PA news agency: “We are very pleased to see the strong indication from Mrs Sacoolas and her personal attorney this afternoon that they are willing to discuss options with a view to finding a path forward.

“I would urge Mrs Jeffress and the Crown Prosecution Service to engage with each other as urgently as possible and the parents and I are more than happy to engage in those discussions if appropriate.

“We are sure that, once a satisfactory resolution is found, both families will be able to begin the path towards recovery.”