Government cites national security in civil case over 2019 death of British teenager in road crash
The US government has requested that the country’s civil courts prevent the disclosure of the employment details of Harry Dunn’s alleged killer in the interests of “national security”.
The 19-year-old’s parents, Charlotte Charles and Tim Dunn, lodged a claim against Anne Sacoolas and her husband after the teenager’s death in a road crash outside a US military base in Northamptonshire two years ago.
Sacoolas, 43, who had been driving on the wrong side of the road, claimed diplomatic immunity due to her husband’s employment at the base and returned to the US about three weeks later. She was charged with causing the teenager’s death by dangerous driving, but a Home Office extradition request was rejected by the US state department in January last year.
The US government filed the “protective order” at Virginia civil court on Friday. It states that “although defendants were employees of the United States government at the time” of the crash, “information concerning the United States government has little to no relevance to an adjudication of any remaining issues in this case”.
Earlier this year, Sacoolas’s claim to immunity was thrown into question after it emerged she had been employed by a US intelligence agency at the time of the crash. When it first accepted her departure from the UK, the British government argued the family of US staff employed at the RAF Croughton base enjoyed full diplomatic immunity. A 1995 treaty covering the base said only “administrative and technical staff” would not be immune from criminal jurisdiction for actions beyond their duties. Downing Street said she had been notified to the UK as a diplomat’s spouse with no role, and it had not been aware she was an intelligence officer.
The proposed order reads: “In general terms, the United States seeks protection … because of the impact the disclosure of information regarding the government in this litigation could reasonably be expected to have on national security.”
The motion asks that the court enters a protective order “foreclosing discovery or disclosure of information in this civil action implicating the United States government that is in any way, either directly or indirectly, related to the defendants’” as well as any other individuals’ employment with the government.
The Dunn family’s spokesperson, Radd Seiger, has said they will tell the US government the motion will be “resisted strenuously”. He added: “It now appears that Mr and Mrs Sacoolas have brought in their employers, the US government, to help them minimise what happened to Harry on the night he died in an attempt to prevent both the family and public at large from knowing the full truth.”
The UK foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, has been pressing for Sacoolas to face a virtual trial over Dunn’s death, which could allow her to face some form of punishment in the US rather than being extradited to the UK. The solution, which has been welcomed as a huge development by Seiger, was proposed during a meeting last month between Boris Johnson and Joe Biden. However, it remains unclear whether the outcome could result in a possible prison sentence in either the UK or US, as Raab referred to either a virtual trial or process.