Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

Harry Dunn’s family says UK still allowing Americans to escape justice as US soldier flees after crash

Family’s lawyer claims road incidents involving US servicemen ‘happen all the time’ and says he is dealing with number of similar cases

Andy Gregory
Wednesday 13 December 2023 14:35 GMT
Harry Dunn's mother calls for change in UK license laws for US drivers: 'It is not safe'

Harry Dunn’s family have warned that something has gone “very badly wrong” for another US citizen to have been able to evade justice in the UK after alleged involvement in a car crash.

The 19-year-old’s family were forced to wait three years when US citizen Anne Sacoolas claimed diplomatic immunity, after fatally hitting Mr Dunn’s motorbike while driving on the wrong side of the road near the RAF Croughton military base in August 2019.

His mother Charlotte Charles expressed her outrage after it emerged that Issac Calderon, a US citizen reportedly “associated with the secret service”, left the UK days before a court appearance over a car crash that left nurse Elizabeth Donowho unable to walk for six weeks.

Harry Dunn was killed in a crash in August 2019 (Family hadout/PA)

The Dunn family’s lawyer Radd Sieger said he had been assured “systems had been put in place to make sure that no American ever left the country again as Anne Sacoolas did”.

“So something has gone very badly wrong here,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “We don’t quite know what it is – but rather than leave Elizabeth to wait for months, potentially years as Charlotte had to do, they’ve got to get on with it and sort it out quickly.”

Issuing a call for the law to be changed around US citizens being allowed to drive without a UK license for up to a year, Ms Charles said: “It’s not only to keep people in the UK safe, it’s to keep the Americans safe as well.

“They’re used to driving on very wide, very long, very different roads over in the States, and then they come to our little country with our tiny little backroads.

“It’s not safe for them to be given the keys to a car and expected to just get on with it, and sadly that’s the position that they find themselves in when they’re stationed here.”

Nurse Elizabeth Donowho suffered several broken bones in the car crash in Shucknall Hill, Herefordshire (Jacob King/PA Wire)

Speaking to The Independent, Mr Seiger also questioned what progress had been made in a government review of road safety around US military bases, commissioned by then-transport secretary Grant Shapps in July 2020.

“What are they doing to stop these deaths and serious injuries?” Mr Sieger said. “This is three-and-a-half years ago.

“When I said a road safety review, I meant including for instance driver training. Because we know people like Anne Sacoolas was never given any acclimatisation training. The Department for Transport started off just looking at the infrastructure outside bases. And I said ‘no, you’ve got to also look at instruction and training’.

“So it’s gone into, as far as I’m concerned, a black hole... Like so many other things, we feel at the moment that lots of promises are made but never followed through.”

Mr Sieger, who lives near the military base, claimed that road incidents involving US citizens “happen all the time” – and pointed to remarks in the Commons in 1983 by Conservative MP David Mellor, who warned of 2,000 US servicemen having been convicted for traffic offences in the previous year alone.

Charlotte Charles called for the law to be changed for US citizens driving in the UK (PA)

“There are people in our community who have either been killed or are walking around without limbs,” Mr Seiger claimed, adding: “Nothing’s ever been done about it. We had very much been hoping that Harry Dunn would have been the last, but I’m dealing with a number of other cases, including the latest one, Elizabeth Donowho, and something has to be done.”

Referring to Harry’s mother, Mr Sieger said: “It breaks her heart and brings her right back to the time when Harry died.

“As part of our campaign, we set out to make sure what happened to Harry never happened to anyone else again. I’ve been working intensively with the Department for Transport and [Foreign Office] to try and put systems in place to make things safer for us, as well as for the American drivers – but on it goes.”

The Department for Transport has been approached for comment.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in