London, UK – British prosecutors have filed charges and begun extradition proceedings against the U.S. diplomat’s wife who killed a U.K. teenager in a wrong-way crash in August.
“Following the death of Harry Dunn in Northamptonshire, the Crown Prosecution Service has today authorised Northamptonshire Police to charge Anne Sacoolas with causing death by dangerous driving,” Chief Crown Prosecutor Janine Smith said in a statement on Friday, according to The Washington Post.
Amy Jeffress, the attorney for 42-year-old Anne Sacoolas, said her client “will not return voluntarily to the United Kingdom to face a potential jail sentence for what was a terrible but unintentional accident,” the San Francisco Gate reported.
Sacoolas has been charged with causing death by dangerous driving, a crime that carries a sentence of up to 14 years in Great Britain.
The crash occurred on the night of Aug. 27 as 19-year-old Harry Dunn was riding his motorcycle past RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire, the Daily Mail reported.
Northamptonshire police said that Sacoolas, the wife of a U.S. diplomat, pulled out of the air force base and onto the wrong side of the road in her Volvo, where she collided with Dunn head-on.
Dunn was transported to the hospital with multiple injuries and died, the Daily Mail reported.
Northamptonshire Police Superintendent Sarah Johnson said investigators met with the woman and her attorneys the day after the wreck and the diplomat’s wife said she had no plans to leave the United Kingdom, NBC News reported.
“During the course of that meeting we were aware that diplomatic immunity had been raised as an issue, we then made immediate application for a waiver in order for us to undertake further investigations and interview," Superintendent Johnson explained.
She said they sought a waiver from the U.S. Embassy to interview a person with diplomatic immunity before they sat down to talk with the woman, NBC News reported.
But the superintendent said that the waiver request was ultimately declined and police were informed on Sept. 16 that the driver of the Volvo that killed Dunn had returned to the United States.
"Due process was also followed in seeking the necessary documentation to allow for the arrest and formal interview of the suspect, and the force is now exploring all opportunities through diplomatic channels to ensure that the investigation continues to progress," Superintendent Johnson told NBC News in an email.
Diplomatic immunity protects foreign diplomats from lawsuits and criminal prosecution in the country where they are working.
The home country can waive diplomatic immunity but the United States has elected not to do so in this case, the Daily Mail reported.
“'We express our deepest sympathies and offer condolences to the family of the deceased in the tragic Aug. 27 traffic accident involving a vehicle driven by the spouse of a U.S. diplomat assigned to the United Kingdom,” the U.S. Department of State said in a written statement. “We can confirm the family has left the U.K. Any questions regarding a waiver of immunity with regard to our diplomats and their family members overseas in a case like this receive careful attention at senior levels.”
Dunn’s parents, Charlotte Charles and Tim Dunn, have demanded that the United States return the woman believed to have killed their son to England to face charges, the Daily Mail reported.
President Donald Trump invited the couple to meet with him in the White House in October, but Dunn’s parents refused to meet with Sacoolas, who was waiting in the next room during their visit, the San Francisco Gate reported.
The charges filed by British prosecutors on Dec. 20 only served to solidify efforts by the United Kingdom to extradite Sacoolas back to England.
“I welcome the taking of a charging decision, which is an important step towards justice for Harry and towards solace for his family, but it is not the end,” British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Friday, according to The Washington Post. “I hope that Anne Sacoolas will now realize the right thing to do is to come back to the UK and cooperate with the criminal justice process.”
But the U.S. Department of State has given no indication that the United States has even considered waving immunity for Sacoolas.
“We express our deepest sympathies and offer condolences to the Dunn family for their loss,” a spokesperson for the agency said Friday. “We will continue to look for options for moving forward. We are disappointed by today’s announcement and fear that it will not bring a resolution closer. … We do not believe that the UK’s charging decision is a helpful development.”