Anne Sacoolas has been sentenced to eight months in prison, suspended for 12 months, for causing the death of teenage motorcyclist Harry Dunn by careless driving.
The former US spy was sentenced in an “unprecedented” case at the Old Bailey – but did not attend the hearing in person after American officials stepped in.
Sacoolas left the UK in August 2019, claiming diplomatic immunity following the collision outside US military base RAF Croughton.
It left the teenager’s grieving parents facing a “torturous” three-year journey to seek justice for their son.
She pleaded guilty to causing Harry’s death by careless driving, via a video link from Washington DC in October this year.
Alongside handing Sacoolas a suspended prison sentence, the judge, Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb, also ruled that she is disqualified from driving for 12 months.
She told the defendant, who appeared in court on Thursday via a video link from her lawyer’s office in the US capital, that while she remained in the US her sentence could not be enforced.
‘Little reason’ for Sacoolas not to attend court in person
Judge Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb was critical of Sacoolas for not attending the sentencing hearing in person.
The court heard that she had been advised by US officials not to fly to the UK, as her return “could place significant US interests at risk”.
But Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb said there was “little reason” for Sacoolas not to attend, as she had been granted bail.
She also praised Harry’s parents and family for their “dignified persistence”, which she said had led Sacoolas to “acknowledge her guilt”.
Delivering her sentence, she told Sacoolas: “You drove along the wrong side of the road for much more than a moment and you did not realise what you were doing when you came to a bend in the road.
“I bear in mind that this was a short period of driving and you were not familiar with English roads. The death of Harry Dunn is, of course, the highest degree of harm.
“Anyone who has caused death by driving would be expected to feel remorseful… and I accept that you feel genuine remorse.”
In a statement from Sacoolas, read out by her lawyer in court, she said that the mother-of-three lived with “regret every single day”.
She said: “There is not a day that goes by that Harry isn’t on my mind, and I am deeply sorry for the pain that I have caused.
“It’s for this reason that I have been so committed to a resolution to this case since 2019.”
Read more: See full text of Sacoolas’ statement
Her barrister, Ben Cooper KC, also told the court that Sacoolas had been subject to harassment and multiple death threats and had moved home several times.
‘We’ve done it Harry’
Speaking outside the court, Harry’s mother, Charlotte Charles, gave an emotional speech in which she said that Sacoolas would have a “criminal record for the rest of her life”.
Ms Charles, who said she had promised her son in hospital that she would get justice, added: “Yep, Harry, we’ve done it.
“We would have been happy with anything – for us, it was just about doing the right thing.”
Family spokesman Radd Seiger added: “Our real enemy here isn’t Anne Sacoolas, our real enemy here is the US government.”
At the time of the collision, Sacoolas was driving two of her children home from a barbecue at the Croughton air base in Northamptonshire.
The court heard on Thursday that Harry was thrown over the car and lay in the road as he said “don’t let me die”, after the collision.
Sacoolas called her husband to the scene and was seen to be crying with her head in her hands, the Old Bailey heard.
She acknowledged she was driving on the wrong side of the road, with speed not a factor and a breath test for alcohol showing negative, the court was told.
‘I made a promise to Harry’
In a victim impact statement, Ms Charles, sobbed as she described how her “world turned upside down”.
“He was the light of my life before he was so senselessly and cruelly taken from us. Harry just disappeared out of my life that night, shattering my existence forever,” she told the court.
She said Harry’s twin, Niall, continues to be “hit very hard” by the tragedy, adding: “I didn’t just lose one son the night Harry died. I lost Niall too.”
Ms Charles added: “His passing haunts me every minute of every day and I’m not sure how I’m ever going to get over it.”
“I made a promise to Harry in hospital that we would get him justice and a mother never breaks a promise to her son.”
Ms Charles and Harry’s father, Tim Dunn, said they were “horrified” that Sacoolas was instructed to attend the hearing remotely and accused the US of “actively interfering” in British justice.
They described their fight for the truth as “totally torturous”, adding: “It’s not an exhaustion that you can go to bed and sleep off.”
Mr Dunn told Sky News: “I think if you ever really told our story to somebody who didn’t know (it) they wouldn’t believe some of the stuff we’ve had… from that awful night in the hospital.”
But he added: “It’s been worth all the heartache and the pain to prove that normal people from Northamptonshire can take on these people and get what should be done straightaway and get justice.”
‘I have nothing to say to her’
In October 2019, Harry’s family were invited to attend the White House and meet the-then president Donald Trump – who secretly arranged for Sacoolas to meet them in the Oval Office.
But the parents had no idea about the meeting and refused to take part in a photo-call Mr Trump was hoping for.
Now they say they have no desire to speak to her.
Ms Charles said: “You never say never, but I don’t think there’s a chance at all of that.
“It’s a bit too late. She’s had three years.”
Mr Dunn added: “I don’t feel there’s any need for me to meet her to be honest. I have nothing to say to her.”
Speaking following the conclusion of the sentencing, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said “important lessons” had been learned from the case.
He said: “Since Harry’s death in August 2019, we have been clear that Ms Sacoolas should return to the UK to face British justice.
“Since she chose not to, virtual hearings were arranged as the most viable way to bring the case to court and give justice to Harry’s family.
“I want to pay tribute to the incredible resolve of Harry’s family and I hope that the judgment provides some closure.
“We have learnt important lessons from this tragic incident, including improvements to the process around exemptions from diplomatic immunity and ensuring the US takes steps to improve road safety around RAF Croughton.”