Civil claim against Harry Dunn suspect to remain in US

Harry Dunn’s ‘killer’ Anne Sacoolas will face a claim for damages from the teenager’s family in a US court after a judge rejected her bid to have case moved to the UK

  • Teen was killed when his motorbike crashed into a car outside a US military base 
  • Alleged killer Anne Sacoolas, a diplomat’s wife, fled to US and has not returned
  • Dunn family brought civil claim for damages as ‘last resort’ in hunt for justice 

Harry Dunn’s alleged killer will face a claim for damages from the teenager’s family in a US court after a judge rejected her bid to have the case moved to the UK.   

Anne Sacoolas had applied to dismiss the case on the grounds it should be heard in Britain, despite her legal team admitting she would not agree to face trial due to a ‘concern’ she would not ‘receive fair treatment’.

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

Harry Dunn, 19, was killed when his motorbike collided with a car outside US military base RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire in August 2019

The suspect, 43-year-old Anne Sacoolas, had diplomatic immunity asserted on her behalf by the US government following the crash and she was able to return to her home country

How was Anne Sacoolas able to flee back to the US as British police investigated? 

US diplomat’s wife Anne Sacoolas fled the UK after allegedly killing 19-year-old Harry Dunn in August by running him over in her car 

Anne Sacoolas used a loophole to claim diplomatic immunity after allegedly killing Harry Dunn in a crash involving her Volvo SUV.

It was believed that diplomatic immunity only applied to US officials – and their families – if they worked at the US Embassy in London.

But it appears that because of the work done at RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire – a US intelligence hub in Britain – the same applies there. 

Sky News claims an immunity deal between the UK and US there started in  1994.

As a result Northamptonshire Police were planning to get Anne Sacoolas to sign a ‘waiver of diplomatic immunity’ – but she, her husband and their children fled on a private jet.

Harry’s family claim that Mrs Sacoolas had promised to work with police and admitted culpability. 

But handing down his judgment on Tuesday, the judge 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.’

She travelled back to the US after the State Department asserted diplomatic immunity on her behalf following a crash which killed Mr Dunn outside RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire in August 2019.

The 43-year-old was then charged with causing the teenager’s death by dangerous driving but an extradition request was rejected by the US Government in January last year.

Due to her ‘refusal’ to return to the UK, the Dunn family brought a civil claim for damages against her as ‘a last resort’ in the hope of some sort of justice for their son.

In his judgment, 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’.

Judge Ellis also took into account the ‘firm support’ of UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who submitted a letter to the court which read: ‘I strongly support (the Dunn family’s) right to bring the case.

‘It is of course for the US courts to decide the issue of venue but for our part the British Government takes the view that British citizens can bring their case in whichever court they think appropriate… I hope therefore (the Dunn family’s) action in the United States is able to proceed.’

Mr Dunn’s mother Charlotte Charles said: ‘We are pleased and relieved at the court’s decision.

‘We only took this step as a last resort following the denial of justice in the extradition case on strong legal advice from our legal team.’

Mr Dunn’s mother Charlotte Charles, pictured with father Tim Dunn, said: ‘We are pleased and relieved at the court’s decision’

On February 4, the family listened to Sacoolas’s legal team submit the application to dismiss, in which the Alexandria district court was told Sacoolas and her husband Jonathan Sacoolas worked for the US State Department at the time of the crash.

Her barrister, John McGavin, told the court he could not ‘completely candidly’ explain why the Sacoolas family left the UK, adding: ‘I know the answer, but I cannot disclose it.’

The Dunn family’s spokesman Radd Seiger said: ‘Having studied this judgment we are delighted to see that common sense has prevailed.

‘Harry’s parents only brought these legal proceedings as a last resort.

‘The Sacoolases were on the one hand arguing that the civil claim for wrongful death should be tried in the UK as that was the ‘more convenient’ forum, whilst at the same time arguing that she would not return to the UK to face a criminal prosecution because she fears she would not get a fair trial.

‘Harry’s parents never wanted to enter into dispute with anybody and they fundamentally believe that the way to resolve differences is with dialogue.’

Other motions Sacoolas’s legal team submitted to dismiss the case will be heard on March 3 in Virginia.

WHY ARE AMERICANS AT RAF CROUGHTON IN THE UK?

RAF Croughton is an air base that is currently being leased by the US government. 

It houses the 422nd Air Base Group, but is also being used by spies working for the Joint Intelligence Operations Center Europe (JIOCEUR). 

JIOCEUR is a military intelligence analysis center which is part of the Defense Intelligence Agency. The agency is an external branch of government which provides intelligence to ‘warfighters, defense policymakers and force planners in the Department of Defense and the Intelligence Community’. 

The entrance to RAF Croughton is shown. Sacoolas was exiting the base when she turned onto the wrong side of the road on August 27

It provides intelligence information for the U.S. European and African commands as well as NATO.  

The Center is based at RAF Molesworth in Cambridgeshire but, following the 2015 announcement that it was to close in 2023, many of the positions were moved to Croughton. 

There are plans to consolidate it with the U.S. Africa Command to make a larger station at Croughton that will be known as the Joint Intelligence Analysis Complex – a major hub for US intelligence gathering.

According to locals in Croughton, the communications center – where Sacoolas’ husband is said to work – is a ‘site within the site’ which has its own separate security.  

The US government is reconsidering the relocation after being met with resistance from lawmakers who said it would be too expensive.  

A file photo of a geodesic dome covering radar scanners and satellite dishes at the base. It is an intelligence gathering hub which the US Defense Intelligence Agency uses to collect information from Europe and Africa 

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