British coroner criticizes US government over death of teen motorcyclist Harry Dunn in 2019

LONDON (AP) — A British coroner criticized the U.S. government on Thursday over a lack of training for diplomatic personnel at the conclusion of an inquest into a road accident in August 2019 that saw a teenage motorcyclist killed by one of its employees.

At the end of the four-day inquiry into the accident outside RAF Croughton, an air base in eastern England that is used by U.S. forces, Northamptonshire coroner Anne Pember recorded that the death of 19-year-old Harry Dunn was the result of “injuries sustained during a head-on collision” with a car being driven on the wrong side of the road.

Unlike in the United States, drivers in the United Kingdom drive on the left-hand side of the road.

In a statement that was read at the inquest, the driver, Anne Sacoolas, had admitted to police that she “drove like an American” and that she had not received any training about driving in the U.K.

Sacoolas, who told police that she worked as an analyst for the U.S. State Department, declined to make the journey to the U.K. from the U.S. for the inquest.

“I made a tragic mistake that I will live with every single day for the rest of my life," she said in a written statement to the inquiry. "There is not a single day that goes by that Harry is not on my mind and I am deeply sorry for the pain that I have caused.”

Sacoolas and her husband, an American intelligence officer, returned to the U.S. 19 days after the accident. The U.S. government had invoked diplomatic immunity on her behalf, prompting an outcry in Britain.

Sacoolas pleaded guilty by video link of causing death by careless driving in Dec. 2022 at London’s Central Criminal Court after being advised by the U.S. administration against making the trip. She was given an eight-month prison sentence, suspended for a year, with the judge in the case reducing the penalty because of Sacoolas’ guilty plea and previous good character.

Speaking outside the court Thursday, Dunn’s mother, Charlotte Charles, reiterated her “disgust” at Sacoolas’ and the U.S. Embassy’s decision not to attend the inquest, labelling it “disrespectful” to her son.

“It further bolsters my opinion that they have no regard for myself or my family, our wider family,” she said. "They just don’t care.”