US woman pleads guilty in UK teen’s road death case

LONDON (AP) — An American woman who fled the U.K. claiming diplomatic immunity after she was involved in a fatal traffic accident pleaded guilty Thursday to causing death by careless driving.

Anne Sacoolas, 45, was charged after an August 2019 accident in which 19-year-old Harry Dunn was killed when his motorcycle collided with a car outside RAF Croughton, an air base in eastern England that is used by U.S. forces. Prosecutors said Sacoolas was driving on the wrong side of the road at the time.

Sacoolas and her husband, who had been a U.S. intelligence officer at the air base, returned to America days after the accident. The U.S. government invoked diplomatic immunity on her behalf, prompting an outcry in Britain.

The case has caused tensions between the U.K. and U.S. governments. British politicians have demanded Sacoolas face justice in a British court, but American authorities rejected Britain’s extradition request.

On Thursday, Sacoolas participated in a hearing held at London’s Central Criminal Court by video link from Washington, and admitted responsibility in Dunn’s death.

Sacoolas was charged with causing death by dangerous driving, but U.K. prosecutors accepted her plea to the lesser charge of causing death by careless driving.

Prosecutor Duncan Atkinson said the fact that she was an “overseas national without experience of driving on the roads of this country” was a factor in considering her culpability.

Death by careless driving carries a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment.

Justice Bobbie Cheema-Grubb told Sacoolas that although she could not compel her to face justice in person, it would provide “weighty evidence” of “genuine remorse.”

“I direct Ms Sacoolas attend court to be sentenced,” the judge said. “If the sentence … is one that does not involve immediate custody there is to be no barrier to her returning home after the hearing.”

Sentencing is not expected until next month.

Around 20 members of Dunn’s family attended the hearing.

“I would urge (Sacoolas) on behalf of my entire family to do the right thing and come back for the sentencing hearing,” Harry’s father, Tim Dunn, said.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.