The US citizen granted diplomatic immunity after a car crash that killed teenage motorcyclist Harry Dunn has been charged with causing death by dangerous driving.
Harry’s mother today said a “huge step” has been made in the family’s attempts to “seek justice”.
However, Amy Jeffress, the lawyer representing suspect Anne Sacoolas, responded by saying she “will not return voluntarily to the United Kingdom to face a potential jail sentence for what was a terrible but unintentional accident.”
Harry, 19, was killed when his motorbike was involved in a crash with a car alleged to have been driven by Mrs Sacoolas, the wife of an American diplomat. She then returned to the US claiming diplomatic immunity and sparking a widespread outcry.
Since the fatal crash outside RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire in August, Harry’s parents Charlotte Charles and Tim Dunn had launched an international campaign to bring Mrs Sacoolas to trial, including meeting US President Donald Trump to discuss the matter.
They want Mrs Sacoolas to return to the UK to “face justice” and have been exploring civil actions against her both in Britain and the US.
Speaking outside the CPS headquarters on Friday, Ms Charles said: “We feel that we have made a huge step in the start of achieving the promise to Harry that we made.
“We made that promise to him the night we lost him to seek justice thinking it was going to be really easy.
“We had no idea it was going to be so hard and it would take so long but we feel it is a huge step towards that promise we made Harry.”
However, Ms Jeffress’s statement made clear Mrs Sacoolas does not intend to return to the UK: “This was an accident, and a criminal prosecution with a potential penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment is simply not a proportionate response.
“We have been in contact with the UK authorities about ways in which Anne could assist with preventing accidents like this from happening in the future, as well as her desire to honour Harry’s memory.
“We will continue that dialogue in an effort to move froward from this terrible tragedy. But Anne will not return voluntarily to the United Kingdom to face a potential jail sentence for what was a terrible but unintentional accident.”
Confirming the charge, 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.”
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab welcomed the decision to charge Mrs Sacoolas.
He said: “I welcome the taking of a charging decision which is an important step towards justice for Harry and towards solace for his family, but it is not the end.
“I hope that Anne Sacoolas will now realise the right thing to do is to come back to the UK and cooperate with the criminal justice process.”
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) was handed a completed file of evidence on November 1 after Northamptonshire Police interviewed Mrs Sacoolas in the US.
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The parents previously have already had a “warm” meeting with Mr Raab in which he told them the Government is doing “everything it can” to get justice.
After the meeting, Mr Raab said: “I appeal to Anne Sacoolas herself to do the right thing. If there is a charging decision from the Crown Prosecution Service, I urge her to come back to the United Kingdom and co-operate with the criminal justice process.”
Last week Mrs Sacoolas was filmed driving for the first time since the fatal incident.
Harry’s family said that the footage, which showed the 42-year-old wife of a US technical intelligence officer reversing out of a driveway before pulling away, had left them distraught.
Ms Charles had told ITV News: “She’s just going about doing whatever she would usually do as though nothing’s ever happened. Her life looks so normal and she’s completely wrecked ours.”
Radd Seigler, Harry’s family’s spokesman, said: “They are completely devastated by what they have seen and feel like they have been taken for fools. They feel like they have been naive and stupid.
“The footage taken and her demeanour clearly shows she has no intention of coming back voluntarily to the face the music, nor does she appear to have any care or concern for what Harry’s family are going through.”