Peters & Peters helps Harry Dunn’s family in their quest for justice
At Peters & Peters, as part of our commitment to justice, we lend our support to important causes where we can make a difference, often helping those facing some of the most difficult times of their lives in their search for justice. Sometimes, these causes also lead us to being involved in highly unusual proceedings.
One such cause is the death in 2019 of teenager Harry Dunn, who was struck and killed by a car driven by US citizen Anne Sacoolas near RAF Croughton, Northamptonshire. She had pulled out of the airbase and had been driving on the wrong side of the road for over 20 seconds.
At the end of September this year, after a three-year wait, Harry’s family was finally able to see Mrs Sacoolas in a UK criminal court. Although she appeared through a videolink from the US for the brief hearing, where the Chief Magistrate sent the case to the Old Bailey, many legal commentators had thought this day would never come.
Highly unusual proceedings
Since 2021, our Partner and former Head of Extradition at the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) Nick Vamos and Associate Debbie Sayers have been working pro bono with Harry’s parents, Charlotte Charles and Tim Dunn, and the campaign team in their bid to ensure Mrs Sacoolas was held accountable.
Shortly after the crash, Mrs Sacoolas, whose husband was a US official stationed at the airbase, returned to the US and diplomatic immunity was claimed on her behalf by the US authorities.
At the end of 2019, the CPS charged her with causing death by dangerous driving. The UK issued an extradition request, which was summarily rejected by the US government. Mrs Sacoolas could, of course, return voluntarily, but so far has refused to do so. These two facts have forced the CPS and UK criminal justice system into what Nick calls “uncharted waters”.
“We have never seen entirely remote proceedings from first appearance to sentence, and it may never happen again. The CPS has bent over backwards to get Mrs Sacoolas to court but will be mindful of setting a precedent of remote proceedings as a means of circumventing extradition. A remote procedure is justified in the highly unusual circumstances of this case, but would undermine the criminal justice system if it became a general rule.”
Dignity and patience
The law on extradition and diplomatic immunity may be complex and while lawyers may debate the challenges presented by this case, for Harry Dunn’s family, the team’s ability and legal knowledge are only part of their contribution.
This was acknowledged by Radd Seiger, the Adviser and Spokesperson to Harry’s family, who said that Nick had been their “port in a storm” and praised him and Debbie for not only living up to the firm’s reputation but exceeding it.
Mr Seiger said:
“Quite apart from Nick’s brilliant mind, his calm and compassionate approach to guiding us through what has been a hugely stressful time for us has been crucial to our success. Along with Debbie Sayers, who has been equally brilliant too in problem solving, both have been so kind and generous to us in their support.”
“It has been an honour and a privilege to call Nick and Debbie colleagues as we helped to guide this tragic ultra-high-profile family towards justice and their new normal.”
We look forward to our continued work on this important case and helping Harry’s family ensure that justice is eventually done.