Harry Dunn's parents 'reach resolution' in civil claim against Anne Sacoolas

·6-min read
Charlotte Charles, mother of Harry Dunn - PA
Charlotte Charles, mother of Harry Dunn - PA

The parents of teenage motorcyclist Harry Dunn and their son's alleged killer have reached a "resolution" in a civil claim for damages filed in the US.

The Dunn family's spokesman Radd Seiger said an agreement had been "reached successfully between the parties and they can put this part of the campaign behind them".

US suspect Anne Sacoolas, who is charged with causing 19-year-old Harry's death by dangerous driving, was due to give evidence under oath last month as part of the damages claim until a last minute postponement.

Sacoolas, 44, was able to leave the UK following the fatal road crash outside RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire on August 27, 2019, after diplomatic immunity was asserted on her behalf by the US Government.

The details of the agreement have not been disclosed, but Mr Seiger said a resolution in the civil claim means Harry's parents, Charlotte Charles and Tim Dunn, will now turn their focus to the pending criminal case.

Confirming a resolution had been reached in the damages claim, he said: "It has come as some considerable relief to them that a resolution to the civil claim has been now been reached successfully between the parties and they can put this part of the campaign behind them.

"It is never easy mounting a legal battle for justice abroad, let alone in the USA, but the family's courage and determination to see this through has been incredible.

"They have been supported throughout the claim by (Foreign Secretary) Dominic Raab and his excellent officials at the FCDO and we are very grateful to them for all their help.

"We have been made aware that the US Government made no secret of their displeasure at the British Government's backing of Harry's family in bringing the claim."

The damages claim, brought against Sacoolas and her husband Jonathan, unearthed a great deal of previously unheard material, such as the State Department roles held by the couple at the time of the crash.

Alexandria District Court in the US state of Virginia heard the pair's work in intelligence was a "factor" in their departure from the UK, as they left for "security reasons".

Mr Seiger continued: "The family feel they can now turn their attention to the criminal case and the long-awaited inquest into Harry's death which will follow the criminal case.

"There will also need to be a parliamentary inquiry into this scandal in due course.

"Harry's family will never be able to move on from his loss, but they are more determined than ever to continue to move forward.

"This is a pivotal point in the campaign, a real milestone. But there is much work left to be done before justice for Harry can be said to be done."

Lawyers acting on behalf of Sacoolas have been approached for comment.

Q&A: How did we arrive at civil claim?

Why was a damages claim filed in the US and not the UK?

The US Government asserted diplomatic immunity on suspect Anne Sacoolas's behalf and she was able to return to the US. An extradition request was then submitted by the Home Office but that was rejected by the US State Department in January 2020.

The Dunn family were advised that, although there could be no criminal proceedings in the US, they could bring a civil claim for damages against Sacoolas as her immunity was no longer valid when she returned to her home country.

Why was diplomatic immunity asserted on Anne Sacoolas's behalf?

The US Government and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office's (FCDO) position is that dependents (such as spouses or children) of US administrative and technical staff at RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire had diplomatic immunity at the time of the crash.

What had happened in the civil case before it was resolved?

Lawyers acting on behalf of Anne and Jonathan Sacoolas had attempted to throw the case out on the grounds it should be heard in the UK, despite admitting she would not agree to face trial due to a "concern" she would not "receive fair treatment".

Judge Thomas Ellis dismissed Sacoolas's submissions that the UK was a "more convenient" forum, keeping the case in Virginia - describing the motion as "not warranted".

Harry's parents, Charlotte Charles and Tim Dunn, then flew out to the US to give evidence under oath as part of the "discovery" process.

What did the judge have to say about the case?

In his judgment which threw out Sacoolas's motion to dismiss the claim, Judge Ellis said: "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."

What would have happened if the case had not been resolved?

Anne Sacoolas and her husband Jonathan would have had to have gone through a process known as a "deposition" in which they would have been compelled to give evidence under oath.

If the case had not been resolved by the end of the depositions, a trial would have taken place in the civil courts in Virginia where a panel of jurors would have determined what financial settlement, if any, the Dunn family would be entitled to.

What new information has come to light through the civil claim?

The civil case has unearthed a great deal of previously unheard material, such as the State Department roles held by the Sacoolases at the time of the crash.

The Alexandria District Court in the US State of Virginia heard the pair's work in intelligence was a "factor" in their departure from the UK - with the couple leaving for "security reasons".

The court heard Sacoolas had not returned to the UK due to a "fear" that because of the "media attention, she would not have a fair trial".

Her lawyer John McGavin said she was "currently apologetic" and "accepted responsibility for the accident".

Does a resolution in the civil case mean the Dunn family's campaign has ended?

The Dunn family's main objective was for Anne Sacoolas to face a criminal charge through the UK justice system.

Former foreign secretary Dominic Raab said a path had been cleared for a "virtual trial or process" to take place and Harry's parents remain hopeful Sacoolas will take part in a criminal process.

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