Anne Sacoolas was sentenced to eight months in prison, suspended for 12 months, for causing the death of teenage motorcyclist Harry Dunn through reckless driving.
SacoolasAged 45, he was driving his Volvo on the wrong side of the B4031 in Northamptonshire, a two lane road with a 40mph limit, when he hit Harry19 years old, traveling in the opposite direction.
The former US spy was convicted in an “unprecedented” case at the Old Bailey but did not attend the hearing in person after US officials intervened.
Latest updates on the sentencing of Anne Sacoolas
Sacoolas left the UK in August 2019, claiming diplomatic immunity following the collision outside US military base RAF Croughton.
It left the teenager’s grieving parents facing a “tortuous” three-year journey to seek justice for their son.
She pleaded guilty to cause Harry’s death by careless driving, via a video link from Washington DC in October of this year.
In addition to giving Sacoolas a suspended prison sentence, the judge, Ms Justice Cheema-Grubb, also ruled that she was barred from driving for 12 months.
He told the defendant, who appeared in court Thursday via video link from his attorney’s office in the US capital, that while he remained in America his sentence could not be carried out.
Read more: Sacoolas questioned by Sky News’ James Matthews after sentencing
“Small reason” for Sacoolas not to appear in court in person
The judge, Ms Justice Cheema-Grubb, was critical of Sacoolas for not attending the sentencing hearing in person.
The court heard that she had been advised by US officials not to fly to the UK, as her return “could put important US interests at risk”.
But Ms Justice Cheema-Grubb said there were “little reasons” for Sacoolas not to attend, as she had been granted bail.
He also praised Harry’s parents and family for their “dignified persistence”, which he said led Sacoolas to “admit his guilt”.
In handing down his sentence, the judge told Sacoolas: “You drove on the wrong side of the road for much more than a moment and you didn’t realize what you were doing when you came around a bend.
“I remember this was a short time of driving and you were unfamiliar with English roads. Harry Dunn’s death is, of course, the highest degree of damage.
“Whoever caused the death by driving should feel remorse…and I accept that you feel real remorse.”
In a statement from Sacoolas, read by her attorney in court, she said the mother of three lived with “regrets every single day.”
She said: “Not a day goes by that Harry isn’t on my mind, and I am deeply sorry for the pain I have caused.
“It is for this reason that I have worked so hard since 2019 for a resolution of this case.”
Read more: See the full text of Sacoolas’ statement
His attorney, Ben Cooper KC, also told the court that Sacoolas had been subjected to harassment and multiple death threats and had moved home several times.
‘We made it Harry’
Speaking outside the Old Bailey, Harry’s mother Charlotte Charles gave an emotional speech in which she said Sacoolas would have a “criminal record for the rest of his life”.
Mrs Charles, who said she promised her son in hospital that he would get justice, added: ‘Yes Harry, we did.
“We would have been happy with anything, for us it was just about doing the right thing.”
Family spokesman Radd Seiger added: “Our real enemy here is not Anne Sacoolas, our real enemy here is the US government.”
At the time of the collision, Sacoolas was walking two of his children home from a barbecue at Croughton Air Force Base in Northamptonshire.
The court heard on Thursday that Harry was thrown over the car and lay on the road saying “don’t let me die” after the collision.
Sacoolas called her husband to the scene and was seen crying with his head in his hands, the Old Bailey heard.
He acknowledged he was driving on the wrong side of the road, with speed not a factor and a breath test for alcohol came back negative, the court was told.
“I Made a Promise to Harry”
In a victim impact statement, Ms Charles, sobbed as she described how her “world had turned upside down”.
“He was the light of my life before he was so senselessly and cruelly taken from us. Harry just disappeared from my life that night, shattering my existence forever,” she told the court.
He said Harry’s twin Niall continues to be “hit very hard” by the tragedy, adding: “I didn’t just lose a son the night Harry died. I lost Niall too.”
Ms Charles added: ‘His passing haunts me every minute of every day and I’m not sure how I will ever get over it.
“I promised Harry in hospital that we would get him justice and a mother never breaks a promise to her child.”
Mrs Charles and Harry’s father Tim Dunn said they were “horrified” that Sacoolas was instructed to attend the hearing remotely and accused the United States of “actively interfering” in British justice.
They described their fight for the truth as “totally tortuous,” adding, “It’s not exhaustion that you can go to bed and sleep.”
Mr Dunn told Sky News: ‘I think if you ever really told our story to someone who didn’t know it, they wouldn’t believe some of the things we’ve had…since that terrible night in hospital.’
But he added: ‘It has been worth all the pain and heartbreak to show that the normal people of Northamptonshire can stand up to these people and get what should be done immediately and get justice.’
“I have nothing to tell her”
In October 2019, Harry’s family was invited to attend the White House and meet then-President Donald Trump, who secretly arranged a meeting with Sacoolas in the Oval Office.
But the parents had no idea of the meeting and refused to take part in a photo shoot that Trump was hoping for.
Now they say they don’t want to talk to her.
Mrs Charles said: ‘You never say never, but I don’t think there’s a chance. It’s a little too late. She’s three.’
Mr Dunn added: ‘I don’t think I need to meet her to be honest. I have nothing to say to her.’
Speaking following the conclusion of the ruling, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said: “We have learned important lessons from this tragic incident, including improvements to the process relating to diplomatic immunity waivers and ensuring the United States takes steps to improve road safety.” around RAF Croughton”.