Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has backed the family of Harry Dunn as they pursue the former CIA officer accused of killing their son in the US courts.
In a letter to Harry’s parents, the politician told them he strongly supported their attempt to bring a claim for damages against Anne Sacoolas.
Harry’s family told Sky News that he had also offered to cover their travel and accommodation costs for hearings in Virginia, Mrs Sacoolas’ home state.
His note came to light after it was filed with other court papers in America by lawyers acting for Harry’s parents and twin brother in a civil claim for wrongful death against US citizen Anne Sacoolas and her diplomat husband Jonathan.
The Sacoolas’ lawyers are trying to get the case dismissed.
Mrs Sacoolas was leaving her husband’s base at RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire in August 2019 when she was involved in a crash with 19-year-old Harry, who was on his motorbike.
Mrs Sacoolas, herself a former intelligence agent, later claimed diplomatic immunity and returned to the US with her family.
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She was charged with causing Harry’s death by dangerous driving in December 2019 but in spite of an extradition request from the UK the Trump administration has refused to send her back.
In the letter to Harry’s parents, Mr Raab wrote: “I strongly support your right to bring this case. It is of course for the US courts to decide the issue of venue but for our part the British government takes the view that British citizens can bring their case in whichever court they think appropriate.
“The defendant has said she will not appear if the case is brought in the UK courts. I fully understand therefore your wish to pursue the case in the United States, and have confidence in the US court’s ability to hear the case consistent with your interests in this matter.
“As you know we have offered support to allow you to attend the hearings in Virginia, and I understand other witnesses are also ready to go to the US. I note also that the UK is party to The Hague Convention on the Taking of Evidence Abroad in Civil or Commercial Matters.
“As we have said publicly, we believe that what has happened in Harry’s case amounts to a denial of justice. In comparable circumstances, the UK would waive immunity. I hope therefore your action in the United States is able to proceed.”
Harry’s mother Charlotte Charles told Sky News: “It makes us feel that all this time that Dominic Raab has been saying that he’s on our side – it’s the first evidence we’ve had in writing to show us that that is the case, so we are grateful for that. We are really really pleased with it.
“Receiving that letter and seeing how strongly worded it was is something we can grasp with both hands.”
Mrs Sacoolas, who has admitted driving on the wrong side of the road before the crash, has always refused to return to the UK voluntarily but her lawyers say that the case should be dismissed under the doctrine of “forum non conveniens”, arguing that her home jurisdiction is an inconvenient forum and the case should be heard in the UK.
“The main thing I’m upset about is the fact she’s hurt us so badly by fleeing the UK,” Mrs Charles said.
“She’s not only trying to avoid criminal justice, now she’s trying to avoid civil justice as well, just when you think you can’t be hurt by another human any more knowing she’s going about her daily life over there – we’re trying to deal with the fact that she’s putting us through more torture by getting the claim thrown back to the UK.
“She’s devastated us and now she’s trying to pile more devastation on top of it. I struggle to understand that.”
Legal commentator Joshua Rosenberg QC described Mr Raab’s support as “very unusual”.
He said: “Obviously (it’s) very unusual for the foreign secretary to back an individual bringing a claim in a foreign country, but Dominic Raab clearly thinks that the US should have waived Sacoolas’ immunity, given that the family have no choice but to take a civil case against her.
“What Dominic Raab is saying that any British citizen has the right to go to a foreign country and bring a claim, it’s obviously up to the US but Harry Dunn’s parents and brother have the support of the British government, not just moral but financial support.
“If they are successful in even some of these claims they could well get large damages. On the other hand Anne Sacoolas says it should be heard in the US, not UK. This case is at an early stage but it is encouraging for Harry Dunn’s family to know that they have the financial support.”
A spokesperson for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said: “The Foreign Secretary has been clear, the US refusal to extradite Anne Sacoolas amounts to a denial of justice and she should return to the UK.
“We continue to support the Dunn family to seek justice for Harry, including through our support for the civil case which has been agreed with the family’s representatives.”