Labour reiterate Harry Dunn inquiry promise if asked to form government

Labour reiterate Harry Dunn inquiry promise if asked to form government

Labour have reiterated their promise of an inquiry into the handling of the death of Harry Dunn after a coroner criticised the United States Government over a lack of driver training for diplomatic personnel.

After the conclusion of their son’s inquest on Thursday, the Dunn family said they are looking forward to working with “the next government to establish this public inquiry” after accusing the US administration of “obstructing” their son’s inquest.

Both representatives of the US embassy and driver Anne Sacoolas were absent from the four-day inquest – prompting spokesman Radd Seiger to say the US government’s position is that “lives of UK citizens like Harry ultimately do not matter”.

Following the family’s words about a public inquiry, a statement from Labour said: “In government, a Labour-run Foreign Office would conduct an inquiry into the failures the Conservative government made over the case of Harry Dunn to ensure lessons are properly learnt.

“No other family should have to go through this again. Our thoughts remain with Harry Dunn’s family, friends and loved ones.”

Mr Seiger told the PA news agency that Labour had promised the family a public inquiry into how Sacoolas was able to cause Harry’s death and leave the country after diplomatic immunity was asserted on her behalf.

He added: “We are very happy to see that Labour would hold the inquiry we have been calling for from the outset should they come into power and look forward to working with them on this in the near future.”

Northamptonshire coroner Anne Pember issued three prevention of future death (PFD) notices and criticised the US government over a lack of training for diplomatic personnel at RAF Croughton before Mr Dunn’s death.

She recorded his death as being as a result of “injuries sustained during a head-on collision” with a car on the wrong side of the road.

Of the three PFD notices, two will be sent to the Health Secretary regarding drugs carried by paramedics and overstretched ambulance services, and one to the Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence addressing the US’s training of drivers in the UK.

Speaking outside the court, Mr Dunn’s mother, Charlotte Charles, reiterated her “disgust” at Sacoolas’s and the US Embassy’s decision not to attend the inquest – labelling it “disrespectful” to her son.

She told reporters: “It further bolsters my opinion that they have no regard for myself or my family, our wider family – they just don’t care.”

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Sacoolas appeared before a High Court judge at the Old Bailey via video-link in December 2022, where she pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving.

She was advised against attending her sentencing hearing by her employer, which prompted the family to say they were “horrified” that the US government was “actively interfering in our criminal justice system”.

Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb handed her an eight-month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months.

Addressing the US government’s role prior to Harry’s death, Mr Seiger told PA: “It was not enough for them to kill Harry. It wasn’t enough for them to then kick Harry’s family in their darkest hour and seek to deny and delay the justice that they were entitled to.

“As we have all seen this week, their attitude and approach to keeping their British hosts safe has been laid to bare and they have positively obstructed the coroner’s inquiry and deprived the family of the answers they were entitled to as to why no-one has ever addressed the issue of safety of UK citizens.

“The next question is why have the UK governments over the years been happy to sit on the sidelines watching this scandal unfold.

“This Tory government have refused to get involved. Labour have promised us a public inquiry into the way we were treated and the failure on the part of both governments over the decades to address the issue of safety which has led to thousands of people being killed and seriously injured.”

He continued: “The UK government have also now seen how the US government treats our courts and judges.

Harry Dunn death
Anne Sacoolas previously pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

“The question for the next British government is are they just going to stand by and let the Americans continue to treat us all and our lives with such contempt.

“The US ambassador at the time of Harry’s death was Woody Johnson. He told the UK government after he died that there were far more important things than Harry’s life.

“That is the American government’s position. The lives of UK citizens like Harry ultimately do not matter.

“We won’t let them get away with it and we look forward to working with the next government to establish this public inquiry.

“We were all horrified as a nation to see how the US government treated Harry’s family. This must never happen again.

“The American national anthem ends land of the free, home of the brave. They haven’t demonstrated an ounce of bravery at all preferring to run, hide and obstruct.”

A UK Government spokesperson said: “Harry Dunn’s death in August 2019 was a tragedy. We pay tribute to the incredible resolve of Harry’s family and thank the coroner for her findings.

“We will continue to work with the US to improve the road safety of its staff operating in the UK.

“Since this tragic incident, work has been undertaken to enhance road safety infrastructure around bases where US personnel operate and improve driver training for US visiting forces and diplomats.”