LONDON: Anne Sacoolas, the wife of a US diplomat, pleaded guilty on Thursday to causing the death of a teenager by driving carelessly in England three years ago, a case that led to diplomatic friction between Britain and the United States.
Harry Dunn, 19, died in August 2019 after his motorcycle was hit by a Volvo car driven on the wrong side of the road by Sacoolas near RAF Croughton, an air force base in the English county of Northamptonshire that is used by the U.S. military.
Sacoolas, whose husband worked as a U.S. intelligence officer at the base, left Britain shortly after the accident, claiming diplomatic immunity from criminal prosecution and the United States refused to extradite her.
Appearing at London’s Old Bailey court by videolink from the United States, Sacoolas denied causing death by dangerous driving but admitted the less serious charge.
Prosecutor Duncan Atkinson said that after consideration at the “very highest level” and in close consultation with Dunn’s family, the decision had been taken not to proceed to trial.
The crash led to a diplomatic spat between London and Washington, with the British government backing the call for Sacoolas to be prosecuted.
In 2019, Dunn’s parents travelled to the White House for a meeting with then-President Donald Trump, who surprised them by revealing that Sacoolas was in an adjoining room. Dunn’s parents declined to meet her.
“It’s what we’ve been waiting for and fighting so damn hard for,” his tearful mother Charlotte Charles told reporters outside court, saying she had fulfilled her promise to her son.
Sacoolas will be sentenced in the week commencing Nov. 28, and the judge, Bobbie Cheema-Grubb, directed that she attend in person.
The charge she admitted carries a maximum jail term of five years but guidelines suggest either a community order or a shorter prison sentence.
She was told by judge that she had shown remorse by an early plea of guilt and by taking part in the court process which she could not be compelled to do.
“If sentence is one that does not involve immediate custody, there is no barrier to her returning home after the hearing,” the judge said.