The wife of a US intelligence officer has been charged with causing the death by dangerous driving of the 19-year-old motorcyclist Harry Dunn, the Crown Prosecution Service has announced.
Anne Sacoolas was whisked out of the UK by the American embassy days after the accident in August, with the US claiming she was covered by diplomatic immunity,
A file on the evidence was handed to the CPS on 1 November and there has been no dispute that Sacoolas was driving the car on the wrong side of the road when her car hit Dunn.
The chief crown prosecutor, Janine Smith, said: “Following the death of Harry Dunn in Northamptonshire, the Crown Prosecution Service has today authorised Northamptonshire police to charge Anne Sacoolas with causing death by dangerous driving.
“The director of public prosecutions has met with Harry Dunn’s family to explain the basis of the decision we have made following a thorough review of the evidence available.
“May I remind all concerned that criminal proceedings against Anne Sacoolas are now active and that she has a right to a fair trial. It is extremely important that there should be no reporting, commentary or sharing of information online which could in any way prejudice these proceedings.”
The CPS said it had started extradition proceedings.
It said: “The Home Office is responsible for considering our request and deciding whether to formally issue this through US diplomatic channels. Our specialist extradition team will be working closely with the UK Central Authority at the Home Office to do this.”
Sacoolas had been in the country for only three weeks, and may not have adapted to British requirements to drive on the left. She has been interviewed by UK police in the US.
Harry’s family have been fighting a drawn-out legal and political battle on both sides of the Atlantic to force Sacoolas to come back to the UK to face charges.
Sky News filmed the Dunn family at home on Thursday in tears when they first heard of the CPS decision. Tim Dunn, Harry’s father, said “We believed. We have done it. We have got the charge. It’s amazing. It does not matter what happens now.”
Charlotte Charles, Harry’s mother, said she had made a promise to get him justice. She said: “I would never have rested properly unless I carried out that promise.”
Sacoolas has not spoken publicly since her return to the US, although she attended a planned reconciliation meeting at the White House and was waiting on President Trump’s instruction to meet the family. The Dunn family declined the invitation.
The claim of diplomatic immunity has been disputed by lawyers acting for the family. They assert Sacoolas is the wife of an intelligence officer and the Northamptonshire RAF Croughton base is in reality a US intelligence listening base. The Foreign Office says the base was listed in 1964 as an annex of the US embassy and that its staff enjoy immunity. It also claims her immunity lapses once back in the US and she should do the right thing and return to the UK.
The extradition issue will be in the first instance a matter for Nick Adderley, the chief constable of Northamptonshire police.
A Northamptonshire police spokeswoman said: “We welcome the charging decision announced today by the Crown Prosecution Service in relation to Anne Sacoolas.
“However, because criminal proceedings are now active, it would be inappropriate for us to comment further at this time.”
The Foreign Office is to remove an anomaly that helped Sacoolas leave the UK, claiming diplomatic immunity after her car crashed into Harry on 27 August, killing him and prompting a long diplomatic tug of war between the US and the UK.
The foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, is to start talks with the US to end an anomaly whereby family members of US staff based at RAF Croughtonappear to have greater protection than the staff themselves.
The precise work of staff at RAF Croughton has not been disclosed, and the decision to whisk Sacoolas and her family out of the UK looks to have been linked to a thwarted US desire to minimise publicity about the base as a US intelligence communications hub. It has satellite and fibre-optic links to other US intelligence bases around the world, and to GCHQ, the government intelligence headquarters.
Under arrangements agreed in 1964, American staff members at the base “pre-waived” their immunity against criminal prosecution in the UK, but this was not done for their families. The Foreign Office has rejected freedom of information requests on the terms of the 1964 agreement saying it is not in the national interest.
One option being explored is to extend this automatic waiver to family members so the degree of protection is the same for staff as for their families. The UK extended diplomatic immunity (granted in 1961) not only to London embassies but also to RAF Croughton in 1994.