06:26, August 11 186 0 theguardian.com

2020-08-11 06:26:04
Harry Dunn: ministers urged to consider 'virtual trial' for Anne Sacoolas

The government has been asked to consider a “virtual trial” for Harry Dunn’s alleged killer.

Anne Sacoolas was charged with causing death by dangerous driving after a crash in August last year that resulted in the 19-year-old’s death.

The 42-year-old claimed diplomatic immunity following the collision outside RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire and was able to return to her home country, sparking an international controversy.

In a letter to home secretary, Priti Patel, on Monday, seen by the PA Media news agency, the Dunn family’s constituency MP, Andrea Leadsom, described a virtual trial as a “way to achieve closure ... without undermining the US decision not to accept the extradition request”.

Leadsom also wrote to the solicitor general, the foreign secretary, the Crown Prosecution Service and the lord chancellor to put forward the idea of a virtual trial or a trial in Sacoolas’s absence.

The family’s spokesman, Radd Seiger, said the family “would not object” if a decision was taken to conduct a remote trial.

In the letter, Leadsom said: “You may be aware that the anniversary of Harry’s death falls on August 27 and this is obviously an extremely difficult time for the family.

“They are very anxious to obtain closure on these terrible events before that date and seek urgent comments on the possibility of the trial of Anne Sacoolas virtually or in her absence.

“She could remain on US soil, have a virtual trial with a UK court, and should there be a custodial sentence, she could serve it in the US under the existing prisoner transfer agreement.

“Now the ‘loophole’ that allowed Anne Sacoolas to claim diplomatic immunity has been closed by our foreign secretary’s excellent efforts, it must be clear to all that the claim of immunity was the wrong thing to do and that a virtual trial is a way to achieve closure for Harry’s family without undermining the US decision not to accept the extradition request.”

Dunn’s family said their “final goodbye” to their son last month as they scattered his ashes in his favourite place - Portland Bill, near Weymouth in Dorset.

Reacting to the letters, Dunn’s mother, Charlotte Charles, told PA: “How justice is administered is not a matter for me as a victim of this very serious crime.

“However, I’m very grateful to Andrea Leadsom for working hard on our behalf to ensure that justice is done for Harry.

“I can see that she has written to the authorities suggesting that Anne Sacoolas is tried remotely from the US and we’re grateful for her looking at ways in which justice can be achieved.”

Charles continued: “For me and my family, it is all about doing the right thing and ensuring justice is done. I did not make it to hospital in time to comfort Harry. He died just before I got there.

“I did make a promise to him that we would get him justice and that is just what we will do. I have every confidence that the authorities will make sure it happens.”

An extradition request submitted by the Home Office for Sacoolas was rejected by the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, in January.

The US state department later described the decision as “final”, despite the loophole which allowed Sacoolas to claim diplomatic immunity being closed by both countries last month.

Giving his thoughts on the possibility of a remote trial, Seiger told PA: “Anne Sacoolas must face the British justice system like any of us would have to and that is what will happen.

“It is obviously up to the authorities how that takes place. The suggestion of a remote trial is a novel one and as far as I am aware would be totally unprecedented in our legal system.

“Anne Sacoolas must go through the English legal system. That has always been our case.

“How she does that is a matter for the authorities who have always been clear that they remain intent on ensuring she comes back to face justice.

“But I can say that were a remote trial to be considered by the authorities and a decision taken to do it that way, particularly in the middle of this pandemic, the family would not object.

“Let’s wait and see if this is a viable way forward.”

The Home Office said it was a matter for the attorney general’s office, which confirmed a letter had been received but declined to comment further.