The US citizen Anne Sacoolas is due to face criminal proceedings in the UK, charged with causing the death by dangerous driving of the 19-year-old motorcyclist Harry Dunn.
The 44-year-old is accused of killing the teenager in a road crash outside the US military base RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire on 27 August 2019.
The case would be heard at Westminster magistrates court on 18 January, the Crown Prosecution Service said. It is understood that she will appear via video link, although a spokesperson for the law firm representing Sacoolas said: “While we have always been willing to discuss a virtual hearing, there is no agreement at this time.”
Sacoolas and her family were taken out of the UK by US authorities as Northamptonshire police investigated Dunn’s death, with US officials claiming she had diplomatic immunity.
The Crown Prosecution Service then sought an extradition warrant to bring her back to the UK to stand trial, but the US state department adamantly refused to grant her extradition, insisting that her status as the wife of a serving US diplomat meant she was not required to stand trial. The US confirmed she had been an intelligence officer.
She was living at RAF Croughton at a base that was in effect run by the Americans. Her husband was an intelligence official, and the family had been in the UK for only a few weeks when the accident happened.
The US refusal to allow her to come back to the UK had caused tensions between the two countries. It seemed that campaigners acting for the parents of Dunn were close to defeat after exhausting various avenues including a judicial review of the Foreign Office’s handling of the case, and a resolution in September of a civil damages claim in the US that ended with no published outcome. After the civil case was settled, the family stressed the criminal case was not being abandoned.
At one point, Radd Seiger, the chief campaigner for the Dunn family, was told he had a 1% chance of success.
Sacoolas had diplomatic immunity asserted on her behalf by the US government following the collision, and was able to leave the UK 19 days after the incident. The Foreign Office appeared to accept it could not prevent her departure.
The CPS reached the decision to charge Sacoolas with causing Dunn’s death by dangerous driving in December 2019. Dunn’s mother, Charlotte Charles, said her family were feeling “very emotional” after hearing the news.
She said: “My family and I are feeling very emotional and overwhelmed, having just learned the news that Mrs Sacoolas is now to face our justice system. It is all that we asked for following Harry’s death.”
Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, welcomed the announcement on Twitter, adding: “We continue to support the family to get justice for Harry Dunn.”
A CPS spokesperson said: “While the challenges and complexity of this case are well known, we remain committed to securing justice in this matter. The case will be heard at Westminster magistrates court on 18 January.
“Anne Sacoolas has a right to a fair trial. It is extremely important there should be no reporting, commentary or sharing of information online which could in any way prejudice any proceedings.”
The Dunn family have always said they wanted her to face justice in the UK, and it is not clear what would happen if she was found guilty or whether she would serve a sentence or pay any fine in the US.
At one point the US president, Donald Trump, tried to stage a reconciliation between the Dunn family and Sacoolas in the White House, but, given no warning of Trump’s plan, the family refused to meet her, saying instead they wanted to see her only in court.