British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said the path is now clear for a virtual trial of Anne Sacoolas, the US woman accused of killing 19-year-old Harry Dunn in August 2019 while she was driving on the wrong side of the road in England.
Sacoolas claimed diplomatic immunity and fled to the US after the deadly collision outside RAF Croughton, a US military base in England where her husband worked as a US diplomat.
Britain’s attempt to extradite Sacoolas to face charges of causing death by dangerous driving was declined by US authorities, and the incident has sparked ongoing diplomatic tensions between the two countries.
In an interview with the BBC on Saturday, Raab said “the US has not agreed to the extradition, but the path is clear for the legal authorities in the UK to approach Anne Sacoolas’s lawyers – without any problem from the US government – to see whether some kind of virtual trial or process could allow some accountability and some solace and some justice for the Dunn family.” He said it is for the UK’s legal authorities “to deal with the Sacoolas lawyers and also the justice system on the US side.”
Sacoolas does not dispute that she was negligent and admits driving on the wrong side of the road at the time of the crash. Despite this, her personal attorney Amy Jeffress in February 2021 said her client must remain in the United States and suggested she could carry out some form of community service in America.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Friday that US President Joe Biden expressed a “great deal of sympathy” over the case.
In a statement to CNN, a Downing Street spokesperson said the “tragic” issue was raised with Biden and said Johnson “reiterated” that the UK “wants to see justice for the family.”
In a statement Dunn’s mother Charlotte Charles said on Thursday that they are “incredibly grateful” that the case is being taken “so seriously as to be raised on the eve of the G7 meeting.”
“We very much hope that President Biden takes a different view to the previous administration given his deeply personal connection to the case having suffered loss in similar circumstances,” the statement from the family’s lawyer Radd Seiger said.
Previously the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) had said Sacoolas must return to the UK for a criminal trial to take place. In a virtual trial, Sacoolas would be tried by a British court without ever having to leave the US. A transatlantic court proceeding where the judge hears a criminal prosecution in England, while the defendant remains in the US, would be unprecedented in UK law.
Seiger told CNN Saturday, “Harry’s parents welcome the development that the CPS have now been cleared to engage with Mrs. Sacoolas’ lawyers to determine next steps in the criminal case. It is a huge development, and we are grateful to the politicians for making this possible. This campaign has never been about vengeance or retribution, but about accountability for the loss of their totally innocent son. That is what any of us would want and that is what must now be delivered.”
Raab’s announcement comes just weeks before Anne Sacoolas is due to give face-face testimony in front of Harry Dunn’s parents as part of a separate civil claim brought against her at the US District Court in Alexandria, Virginia.
CNN has reached out to Sacoolas’ legal team for comment.