Anne Sacoolas, the American woman accused of killing 19-year-old British motorcyclist Harry Dunn in a traffic accident near a US military base, pleaded guilty to causing his death on Thursday, CNN heard via an audio link of the court proceedings.
Sacoolas had diplomatic immunity claimed on her behalf and was able to leave the UK weeks after the fatal August 2019 traffic collision outside RAF Croughton, a US military base in England where her husband worked as a US diplomat.
Britain’s attempt to extradite Sacoolas to face charges of causing death by dangerous driving was declined by US authorities, and the incident has sparked some tension between the two countries.
Sacoolas, who is in the United States, made a virtual appearance via video link at the Old Bailey court in London on Thursday.
The 45-year-old pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving. She pleaded not guilty to the more serious charge of death by dangerous driving, and UK prosecutors said they would not pursue the dangerous driving charge against her.
Sacoolas has admitted to driving on the wrong side of the road at the time of the collision.
Causing death by careless driving can be punished by up to five years imprisonment.
High Court judge Mrs. Justice Cheema-Grubb, who presided over the proceedings, said Sacoolas is now a “convicted offender” and ordered she be disqualified from driving in the United Kingdom.
Cheema-Grubb said she had not yet decided what sentence to hand down to Sacoolas but admitted to the court that “any sentence I pass is likely to be unenforceable while the defendant remains outside the United Kingdom.”
Cheema-Grubb made another appeal for Sacoolas to return to Britain for sentencing, but said she cannot force her to do so.
Sentencing is set for the week of November 28.
Members of Dunn’s family wore green ties and scarves in court Thursday in remembrance of the 19-year-old. They spoke of their “relief” after hearing Sacoolas admit her guilt.
It was the first time the family saw Sacoolas in court. Dunn’s mother, Charlotte Charles, told the UK’s PA Media news agency: “Walking towards court, there was still the apprehension of ‘is she going to appear?’”
Charles said her family has accepted Sacoolas’ guilty plea to the lesser charge of causing death by careless driving because they “didn’t wish to separate her from her children.”