Judge urges Anne Sacoolas to show ‘genuine remorse’ by attending sentencing in London
Sacoolas, 44, was driving on the wrong side of the road in her SUV when she collided with the 19-year-old as he rode his motorcycle near RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire, a base used by the U.S. Air Force, where her husband was working.
In February 2021 a U.S. court heard she had been “employed by an intelligence agency in the U.S.” at the time of the collision and that was a factor in their decision to leave the UK shortly after the incident.
On Thursday, Sacoolas appeared at the Central Criminal Court, also known as the Old Bailey, by videolink from her home in the United States and pleaded not guilty to the more serious charge of causing death by dangerous driving on Aug. 27, 2019.
But after she admitted the lesser charge, prosecutor Duncan Atkinson, KC, said the guilty plea would be accepted and the Crown was willing to let the more serious charge “lie on file.”
Outside the court Dunn’s parents, Tim Dunn and Charlotte Charles, hugged supporters.
Tim Dunn said: “It has been a hard three years but I feel like the weight has lifted off my shoulders today … the sun has come out … we have got justice for our family.”
Prosecutor Says Pleas ‘Considered at the Very Highest Level’
Earlier, in court, Atkinson said the matter had been “considered at the very highest level” and that the teenager’s family had been consulted.
He said among the factors which the prosecution had considered was that Sacoolas was an “overseas national without experience of driving in this country.”
Atkinson said it had appeared she had driven out of the air base and drove onto the wrong side of the road for 250 metres before hitting Dunn.
Dunn’s family have been campaigning for the past three years for Sacoolas to be brought to justice and met with the then-Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, last year.
Truss, who resigned as prime minister on Thursday, raised the matter with the U.S. government in September 2021.
Three weeks after the collision which killed Dunn, Sacoolas and her husband left the UK to return to the United States, claiming diplomatic immunity.
She was later charged with death by dangerous driving, but her lawyer said she would not return voluntarily to face trial.
An extradition request by the UK government was turned down by the United States.
The maximum sentence Sacoolas could receive for causing death by careless driving is five years in prison but she could be given a suspended sentence or a community order.
On Thursday, the judge, Mrs. Justice Bobbie Cheema-Grubb, KC, said Dunn had been a “young man lawfully riding his motorbike with proper care and attention.”
She said Sacoolas had never formally surrendered to the court and she added, “The fact that this defendant could not be compelled to attend meant that there was no other way for us to conduct this hearing other than by videolink.”
As for the sentencing hearing, Cheema-Grubb said, “There is no order I can make to compel her to attend the Central Criminal Court but there is no barrier whatsoever for her coming to the UK and none has been suggested.”
She ordered Sacoolas to appear in person for sentencing and said her attendance would show “genuine remorse.”
Outside court Tim Dunn said, “I was surprised when the judge said that but whether she comes, I don’t know.”