Dunn family blast PM's letters that arrived before judicial review

Harry Dunn’s family blast Boris Johnson’s ‘cut and paste’ letter after they asked for meeting days before judicial review into their son’s death

  • Harry Dunn’s mother called Boris Johnson’s letters a ‘copy and paste response’
  • Dunn family are set for a judicial review hearing with FCO and police this week
  • Family disputes the diplomatic immunity claimed by suspect Anne Sacoolas 

The mother and twin brother of Harry Dunn have said they are ‘angry’ after letters from Boris Johnson arrived just two days before a court battle.

Charlotte Charles called the letters a ‘cut and paste’ response, adding that she remains ‘bitterly disappointed’ the PM has not met with the family. 

The Dunn family are set for a judicial review hearing with the Foreign Office and Northamptonshire Police on Thursday in which they will dispute the diplomatic immunity claimed by American suspect Anne Sacoolas.

Sacoolas, 42, was charged with causing Mr Dunn’s death by dangerous driving last December but an extradition request was refused by the US in January. 

Mrs Charles wrote to Mr Johnson on March 2 urging him ‘not to be frightened’ of meeting with her and her family, saying there were ‘very serious problems’ that needed addressing ‘for the benefit of the nation’ after her son’s death outside RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire in August last year.

After receiving the letter today, Mrs Charles said that the PM ‘hasn’t even applied his own mind to what is going on and the reason why we asked for a meeting’ – adding ‘even President Trump saw it fit to meet us’. 

Harry Dunn’s mother Charlotte Charles called the letters a ‘cut and paste’ response, adding that she remains ‘bitterly disappointed’ that Boris Johnson has not met with the family 


In his letter to Mrs Charles, the PM said: ‘First of all, let me offer my deepest condolences for the tragic loss of your much-loved son, Harry. I cannot begin to imagine the pain that you and your family have gone through, and my heart goes out to you all’

Mrs Charles said: ‘Having read both his letter to me and to Niall, I cannot begin to express how flat and angry I feel with this cut and paste response.

‘This is the same nonsense that we have been hearing from other government departments for months. Boris hasn’t even applied his own mind to what is going on and the reason why we asked for a meeting.

‘Even President Trump saw it fit to meet us.

‘My son was killed by an American citizen, Mr Johnson and his Government let that person go and he doesn’t have the courage to meet with us.

‘I can’t believe they have timed these letters to arrive on the eve of the Judicial Review just when we are trying to steady ourselves to deal with all that is coming.’

MailOnline has put Mrs Charles’ criticisms to No 10 for comment.  

Harry Dunn, 19, was tragically killed when his motorbike crashed into a car outside a US military base in Northamptonshire on August 27 last year 


In his letter to Harry’s twin brother Niall, the PM maintained that the Foreign Office’s legal position, stating that Sacoolas had diplomatic immunity and ‘neither the UK police nor the Government could lawfully prevent (her) from leaving the country’

In his letter to Mrs Charles, the PM said: ‘First of all, let me offer my deepest condolences for the tragic loss of your much-loved son, Harry.

‘I cannot begin to imagine the pain that you and your family have gone through, and my heart goes out to you all. 

‘I know this loss was compounded by the decision of the United States not to waive immunity for Anne Sacoolas, then to refuse extradition. I feel strongly that this amounts to a denial of justice, and have said so publicly.

‘I have raised Harry’s case personally with both President Trump and Secretary of State Pompeo, asking them to do the right thing. I will continue to do so.’ 

In his letter to Harry’s twin brother Niall, Mr Johnson maintained the Foreign Office’s legal position, stating that Sacoolas had diplomatic immunity and ‘neither the UK police nor the Government could lawfully prevent (her) from leaving the country’. 

In the letter to Niall Dunn, Harry’s twin brother, the PM said: ‘Under arrangements put in place 25 years ago, and confirmed by another government six years later, there was an anomaly under which diplomatic immunity was waived in some circumstances for US staff at RAF Croughton but not for their families. 

American Anne Sacoolas, pictured in Virginia where she and her family returned after she killed British teenager Harry Dunn in Northamptonshire, where they were posted at the time


Mr Johnson told Charlotte Charles and Niall Dunn that he had appointed Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to be the point of contact with the family

‘As a result, Anne Sacoolas had diplomatic immunity and neither the UK police nor the Government could lawfully prevent Anne Sacoolas from leaving the country.

‘We are negotiating those arrangements.’

In response to the letter, Niall Dunn said: ‘What is there to say?  

‘I asked him to grab a hold of the case because my parents were becoming increasingly upset at the Government’s handling of it. 

‘He has just ignored me and trampled all over my feelings. 

‘I’m so upset, really angry at him.’

The PM told both Mrs Charles and Mr Dunn that the Foreign Secretary would be their lead point of contact but he continues to take a ‘close interest in the case’.  

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told the Commons that his department had ‘objected in clear and strong terms’ to former CIA agent Sacoolas fleeing to the US.

But having been forced to disclose private communications between UK and US officials days before Sacoolas left, one incendiary text message exchange suggests Sacoolas was free to leave on the next commercial flight. 

A map, detailing where Harry Dunn was killed, and where a second incident allegedly occurred

The High Court is expected to hear evidence that the FCO initially fought American insistence that Sacoolas had diplomatic immunity and claimed the wording of a treaty with the US that indicated she might have was ‘ambiguous’.   

Controversy rages over the validity of Sacoolas’ claim to diplomatic immunity, described as Britain’s top diplomat as ‘illogical’. 

Foreign Office lawyers advised UK ministers on August 30 that Sacoolas’ diplomatic status was ambiguous. It then told Northamptonshire Police on September 2 that she had full diplomatic immunity and that no prosecution would be possible. 

Speaking to a select committee in April, Sir Simon McDonald, said: ‘The controversy was over an agreement made at the end of the last century over continuing immunities for US diplomats posted at the Croughton annex.

‘In that agreement the American authorities gave a pre-waiver for accredited diplomats so that was the formal position, but that agreement was silent on the rights of their dependants, and that has been the origin of a lot of the dispute.’ 

Sir Simon called it a ‘recondite bit of law’ and its interpretation ‘a bit illogical’.

A ‘cut and paste’ job?: Boris Johnson’s letters to Harry Dunn’s mother and twin brother

The PM’s letter to Charlotte Charles, June 15, 2020 

Thank you for your letter of 2 March. Please accept my sincere apologies for the delay in replying.

First of all, let me offer my deepest condolences for the tragic loss of your much-loved son, Harry. I cannot begin to imagine the pain that you and your family have gone through, and my heart goes out to you all.

I know this loss was compounded by the decision of the United States not to waive immunity for Anne Sacoolas, then to refuse extradition. I feel strongly that this amounts to a denial of justice, and have said so publicly. I have raised Harry’s case personally with both President Trump and Secretary of State Pompeo, asking them to do the right thing. I will continue to do so.

The next steps in this legal process are a matter for the Crown Prosecution Service. That is, of course, entirely independent and we have been mindful of the need to avoid anything that would prejudice the proper and fair course of the criminal justice system.

I agreed that we must do all we can to ensure that what happened to Harry will not be repeated. It is essential that families of US staff at RAF Croughton face justice if they commit serious offences. The Foreign Secretary has ordered an urgent review of the arrangements at RAF Croughton, and we are now in discussions with the US. We will let you know as soon as there is news.

I am also determined to improve the road safety around RAF Croughton. The FCO is pressing the police, the US Embassy and others on this point. Staff at the base are now required to undertake mandatory road safety training, and signage tells people to drive on the left. 

The Northamptonshire Police have offered further training and are working with the base commander. The Department for Transport will also conduct a review of the safety of the roads around the 10 US Visiting Forces (USVF) bases in England, in conjunction with the Road Safety Foundation, the relevant local authorities and Highways England. 

I am taking a close interest in this case, and have asked the Foreign Secretary to be the lead point of contact with you and the rest of the family. I am pleased that he has facilitated meetings with the Secretary of State for Transport, and the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care – giving you the chance to raise your legitimate concerns about the delay in the ambulance reaching Harry. I know the Foreign Secretary has offered to meet you all again.

Once again, please accept my condolences for your loss. I am determined that the Government should do all we can to support efforts to achieve justice for you, your family, and for Harry. 

The PM’s letter to Niall Dunn, June 15, 2020

Thank you for your letter of 2 May. 

What happened to Harry was a tragedy, and I offer you my deepest sympathies for the loss of your twin brother.

I want to reassure you that I am very clear that the US refusal to waive diplomatic immunity and then refuse to extradite Anne Sacoolas amount to a denial of justice. She should return to the UK. 

I have said this publicly and I have raised it repeatedly with the US Government, including with President Trump. 

You ask to know the truth in this tragic case. Under arrangements put in place by a previous government 25 years ago, and confirmed by another government 6 years later, there was an anomaly for US staff at RAF Croughton but not for their families. As a result Anne Sacoolas had diplomatic immunity, and neither the UK police nor the Government could lawfully prevent Anne Sacoolas from leaving the country. We are renegotiating those arrangements. The UK Government and criminal justice system have been doing all in our power to bring Anne Sacoolas to justice.

We also continue to work with the police, the US Embassy and others to improve road safety for all around RAF Croughton at this point. Signage has changed to remind people to drive on the left, and staff at the base are required to undertake mandatory road safety training. The Department for Transport will also conduct a review of the safety of the roads around the 10 US Visiting Forces (USVF) bases in England, in conjunction with the Road Safety Foundation, the relevant local authorities and Highways England.

I have asked the Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to be the main point of contact for you and your family. He has also facilitated meetings with Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, and Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport. They know the close interest I am taking in this case. 

I know that none of this will bring your brother back, but I want to give you my personal commitment that the whole Government will continue to do its utmost to ensure no other family has to go through what you and your family have. 

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