An American diplomat’s wife who fled the U.K. while under investigation for a fatal wrong-way crash with a 19-year-old motorcyclist has been charged with causing the man’s death by dangerous driving.
But Anne Sacoolas will not return voluntarily from the U.S. to face the charge, according to her attorney, reports The Guardian.
The August 27 crash that killed Harry Dunn “was a terrible but unintentional accident,” said a statement from the attorney, Amy Jeffress, reports Sky News.
“Anne is devastated by this tragic accident and continues to extend her deepest condolences to the family,” according to the statement. “Anne would do whatever she could to bring Harry back. She is a mother herself and cannot imagine the pain of the loss of a child. She has cooperated fully with the investigation and accepted responsibility.”
The statement said Sacoolas has “been in contact with the U.K. authorities about ways in which Anne could assist with preventing accidents like this from happening in the future, as well as her desire to honor Harry’s memory.” But it also stated: “This was an accident, and a criminal prosecution with a potential penalty of 14 years imprisonment is simply not a proportionate response.”
Sacoolas flew out of the U.K. under cover of diplomatic immunity shortly after the incident, despite allegedly telling police she had “no plans to leave the country in the near future,” according to Northamptonshire Police.
The fatal collision as Sacoolas allegedly drove on the wrong side of the road occurred around 8:30 p.m. near U.S. Air Force communications station RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire when a black Volvo XC90 struck Dunn’s Kawasaki motorcycle. Dunn died in the hospital a short while later.
The U.S. State Department later confirmed the crash involved “a vehicle driven by the spouse of a U.S. diplomat assigned to the United Kingdom” and extended “deepest sympathies” to Dunn’s family.
With the announcement of the charge against Sacoolas, Dunn’s mother Charlotte Charles said Friday, “We feel that we’ve taken a huge step in the start of achieving the promise to Harry that we made,” reports Sky News.
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But a State Department spokeswoman reiterated Friday that Sacoolas was covered by diplomatic immunity and would not be turned over for prosecution. “We are disappointed by today’s announcement and fear that it will not bring a resolution closer,” said the spokeswoman, reports The New York Times. “We do not believe that the U.K.’s charging decision is a helpful development.”
While in the U.S. to lobby for Sacoolas’ return to face justice in their son’s death, Dunn’s parents met in October with President Trump at the White House — a meeting arranged at the request of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a White House spokeswoman confirmed to PEOPLE at the time.
But the parents were taken aback when they learned that Trump apparently wanted to bring in Sacoolas to meet with them, telling them “that Anne Sacoolas was in the building,” Charlotte Charles later told CBS This Morning in a joint interview with Harry’s father, Tim Dunn. They declined.
Speaking afterward to reporters, Trump confirmed the meeting, which was held without the media present, and said he “offered to bring the [driver] in question in and they weren’t ready for it.”
In announcing the charge in the U.K. on Friday, the Crown Prosecution Service said it would pursue efforts to extradite Sacoolas, reports The Guardian.
The U.S. State Department spokeswoman countered: “The use of an extradition treaty to attempt to return the spouse of a former diplomat by force would establish an extraordinarily troubling precedent.”
Radd Seiger, a spokesman for Dunn’s parents, praised the prosecution service’s actions, reports Sky News.
“A couple of months ago they were told by Northamptonshire Police that there was a less than 1 percent chance of having anyone held accountable for this tragedy,” he said. “As you have seen we have moved heaven and earth both here in London and in Washington to try to get to this day.”
“In their darkest hour they have stood up to this and followed through on their promise to get justice for their son.”
Nick Adderly, chief constable of Northamptonshire Police, whose officers interviewed Sacoolas in the U.S. before turning over the results of their investigation to prosecutors, told Sky News: “We will support the Crown Prosecution Service where we can but we will now let justice run its course.”
He added: “We hope that we see Anne Sacoolas back in the U.K. to face justice.”