Harry Dunn’s killer was sentenced to 8 months suspended for 12 months on live TV today, but she won’t spend a day behind bars.
Last month, American citizen Anne Sacoolas, 45, admitted to killing the 19-year-old while driving a Volvo near a US military base in August 2019.
Today, she was sentenced at the Old Bailey for causing Harry’s death by careless driving, but was spared jail as judge Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb handed her an eight-month suspended sentence, suspended for 12 months.
She appeared via videolink wearing a grey top and cream-coloured jacket as Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb delivered her sentence.
The hearing has joined a handful of previous sentencings so far this year which, for the first time in British legal history, have been broadcast for the public.
Harry was killed when the US citizen was driving her Volvo on the wrong side of the road outside the American military base RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire on August 27, 2019.
Sacoolas had diplomatic immunity asserted on her behalf by the US government after the crash, and was able to leave the UK 19 days after the incident.
Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb said that appearing in person today would have been “strong evidence of remorse”.
During her sentencing remarks, Mrs Justice Cheema Grubb told Anne Sacoolas: “There is no doubt that the calm and dignified persistence of these parents and family of that young man has led through three years of heartbreak and effort to your appearance before this court and acknowledge your guilt.”
Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb told Anne Sacoolas: “At no point during these proceedings was it suggested that you were not free to travel.
“There could be little reason where a young man had met his death for you not to be required to attend for sentence.”
Speaking about the renewed application for the defendant to appear via video-link, the judge said: “A week before that date, the court received a renewal of an application for you to appear via live link which made reference to harassment you and your family had received.
“A request was made on your behalf for a delay of a week to obtain further evidence – this was allowed.”
The judge said she then received “for the first time in these criminal proceedings” what she described as a “barrier” to her attendance in court from the US government.
Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb said she received a statement from the US administration, saying: “The US government does not in any way support Mrs Sacoolas’ appearance at this hearing.
“Her return could place significant US interests at risk.”
Addressing the court through tears, Harry’s mum said his passing “haunts me every minute of every day and I’m not sure how I will get over it”.
Sacoolas was seen wiping away tears as Charlotte read her victim impact statement.
She said: “I didn’t make it to the hospital in time before he passed and the thought of that haunts me to my core.
“My job is to comfort my children and I wasn’t there for Harry to comfort him in what must have been an awful and painful, slow death, particularly as he lay on the side of the road waiting for an ambulance bleeding to death.
“I beat myself up over and over again and wish I had left work earlier so that I could have gotten to him in time.
“If I had left work on time that night, I would have been able to delay him leaving the house, so that he wouldn’t have been travelling along the same road as Anne Sacoolas.”
She described the pain of never being able to become a “Nana” to his would-be children and bouncing them on her lap and looking into their eyes.
She continued to fight away tears as she said: “His passing haunts me every minute of every day and I’m not sure how I’m ever going to get over it.
“I have started counselling but the psychological damage that’s been caused is almost impossible to describe.
“Tears flow constantly and my mood ranges from anger to solemn all the time.
“I have been shaken to the point of breaking and the only thing that keeps me going every day is looking after Niall and Harry’s other siblings, and ensuring that we get justice for Harry.
“I made a promise to Harry in the hospital that we would get him justice and a mother never breaks a promise to her son.”
Charlotte continued: “The bond between a mother and her children is a special one. My bond has been torn apart and although he is not here with me physically, I hope one day to be able to rebuild the bond between him and I.
“When Harry was little, I often wondered what he would grow up to be like as an adult. Well, he didn’t let me down.
“He turned out to be every bit as special as I hoped he would be. Cheeky, happy, hard-working, popular, and caring and he knew right from wrong, which I was so proud of.
“He was one in a million and his smile and laughter were infectious. His passing has left a gaping hole in every fibre of my entire being.”
Concluding the first of two statements, Charlotte said: “I continue to mourn Harry’s loss and will never get over it.
“As a family, we are determined that his death will not have been in vain and we are involved in a number of projects to try to find some silver lining in this tragedy and to help others. That will be Harry’s legacy.
“He was always looking after others and we will carry on his work in his absence.
“I am a broken woman and only hope that one day I will be able to start looking forward to things again with Harry on my shoulder whispering in my ear that he loves me and me doing the same for him.”
Speaking outside court after the proceedings, Charlotte Charles said she was “grateful” for the judge’s words during the sentencing of Anne Sacoolas, adding that her “promise” to get justice for her son “is well and truly complete”.
She said: “Job done, promise complete, properly complete now.
“Anne Sacoolas has a criminal record for the rest of her life.
“That was something she never thought she’d see, something the US government never thought they’d see.”
She says the family has worked tirelessly and relentlessly to ensure, in the end, Sacoolas had to do “what you and I would have done”.
“Harry we done it. We’re good, we’re good.”
Speaking outside the Old Bailey, family spokesman Radd Seiger said: “Our real enemy here isn’t Anne Sacoolas, our real enemy here is the US government.”
In a statement read by her lawyer Ben Cooper KC, Sacoolas said she was “deeply sorry for the pain I have caused”.
In mitigation, Anne Sacoolas’s defence barrister Ben Cooper KC said the US citizen had received death threats via email and telephone, and her family had been forced to relocate following Harry Dunn’s death.
Reading a statement on behalf of the defendant, Mr Cooper said her actions caused her “regret every single day”, adding: “There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about Harry.”
Mr Cooper said Sacoolas “did not ask” for the diplomatic immunity asserted on her behalf by the US government, nor did she have an opportunity to have a say in the refusal of an extradition request submitted by the Home Office.
He said the defendant left the country on a commercial flight as her family were redeployed on the decision of her government.
Following her sentencing, Sacoolas left law offices at Franklin Court in Washington DC from where she appeared.
When approached by the Mirror to ask if she had any comment to make or to add a further apology to Harry’s family, Sacoolas remained tight light lipped and refused to answer.
Opening the facts today, Duncan Atkinson KC told how Harry at the time of the collision, Sacoolas was driving two of her children home from a barbeque at Croughton US Air Base.
Harry had spent the afternoon with his best friend, Robert Hill, and was on his way home on his motorbike.
Mr Atkinson said: “He was described as being his normal self, happy and joking.”
Sacoolas looked down as Mr Atkinson described Harry’s injuries.
Continuing to open the case, he said: “It is not suggested the Volvo was exceeding the speed limit.
“Neither driver seems to have seen or reacted to the other.”
He said Sacoolas told police at the scene she had “made a mistake” and that she was “so stupid”.
Continuing his opening of the case, Mr Atkinson said: “The defendant remained at the scene and she spoke to police.
“The police observed that the defendant had her head in her hands and was crying.
“She told them she had ‘made a mistake’ and said ‘I was so stupid’. The police confirmed that she complied fully with their requests at the scene.
“She acknowledged she was driving on the wrong side of the road.”
The court heard Sacoolas had called her husband to the scene and was seen to be crying with her head in her hands.
Mr Atkinson told the court that Sacoolas told officers she had “made a mistake” and said “I was so stupid.”.
A breath test was negative for alcohol and Sacoolas acknowledged she was driving on the wrong side of the road, he said.
Harry was taken to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, where he died from his injuries at 10.50pm.
Speaking after the sentencing, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said he hoped the judgment in the Anne Sacoolas case “provides some closure” to Harry Dunn’s family.
The Government had “learnt important lessons” around exemptions from diplomatic immunity, he said.