Anne Sacoolas, the wife of a U.S. diplomat, has been charged with causing the death of British teenager Harry Dunn by dangerous driving.
It’s the latest development in a case that has gripped the U.K. since last summer, when police say Sacoolas, 42, drove her car out of a military base on the wrong side of the road, apparently forgetting the rules of left-lane British driving, and collided with Dunn’s motorcycle. The impact sent Dunn flying over Sacoolas’s vehicle and he died soon after in a local hospital.
Sacoolas left the U.K. in early September under diplomatic immunity, against the wishes of the British Foreign Office, and went into hiding until President Trump tried (and failed) to orchestrate a surprise meeting between her and Dunn’s parents when they came to the White House to argue that Sacoolas should return to Britain to face justice.
Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service has now authorized police to charge Sacoolas with causing death by dangerous driving. The local police force, Northamptonshire Police, had already interviewed Sacoolas in the U.S. and handed its file of evidence to the CPS last month.
Chief Crown Prosecutor Janine Smith said in a statement Friday afternoon local time: “The Director of Public Prosecutions has met with Harry Dunn’s family to explain the basis of the decision we have made following a thorough review of the evidence available.”
The CPS also confirmed that it has started extradition proceedings, and has sent a request to the British Home Office, which will now consider whether to formally issue an extradition request for Sacoolas.
Footage broadcast on Sky News showed Dunn’s parents—Charlotte Charles and Tim Dunn—in tears after they learned of the charges. Dunn’s mom said: “I carried out my promise to one of my kids, the promise that I made that we would get that justice... I would never have been able to rest properly ever without having been able to carry out that promise I made.”
Dunn’s father Tim added: “We set out so long ago and we believed and we believed and we believed, and we’ve done it, we’ve done it, we’ve got the charge. This is it, it’s amazing, it’s absolutely amazing. Justice. Whatever happens now it doesn’t matter, we’ve got what we wanted.”
In a statement after the charges were announced, Amy Jeffress, a lawyer for Sacoolas, said the diplomatic spouse remained “devastated” by the accident and “would do whatever she could to bring Harry back. She is a mother herself and cannot imagine the pain of the loss of a child.”
However, Jeffress added: “This was an accident, and a criminal prosecution with a potential penalty of 14 years imprisonment is simply not a proportionate response. We have been in contact with the U.K. authorities about ways in which Anne could assist with preventing accidents like this from happening in the future... We will continue that dialogue in an effort to move forward from this terrible tragedy.
“But Anne will not return voluntarily to the United Kingdom to face a potential jail sentence for what was a terrible but unintentional accident.”
The Dunns have kept up the pressure on Sacoolas through constant media appearances, and The Daily Beast reported last month that lawyers for Sacoolas were been in secret talks with British officials. The talks were said to entail negotiations about a plea deal that would keep Sacoolas from serving prison time if convicted in Dunn’s wrongful death.
In a statement posted on Twitter, British Foreign Secretary Domenic Raab said he “welcomed” the charging decision, but said it was not sufficient to do for justice for Harry Dunn.
“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,” he wrote. “I hope that Anne Sacoolas will now realize the right thing to do is to come back to the U.K. and cooperate with the criminal justice process.”
A spokesman for Dunn’s family said they were pleased with the charges and hope they can finally start to properly grieve his loss.
“The parents were initially told that they had a less than 1 percent chance of having anyone held accountable for Harry’s death,” said Radd Seiger, the spokesman. “They made a promise to their son as he passed away that they would not let him down and would get justice for him. That battle turned into a battle on all our behalf as they committed to ensuring that Harry’s death would not be in vain and that what happened to them would never happen to another family again.
“Today’s development is obviously a significant one but above all else will enable them, at long last, to begin the process of grieving for the loss of their beloved son.”