Harry Dunn's alleged killer Anne Sacoolas 'never had diplomatic immunity'
14th November 2020

HARRY Dunn's alleged killer Anne Sacoolas never had diplomatic immunity, the High Court heard today.

The 19-year-old Brit was killed when his motorbike crashed into a car being driven on the wrong side of the road by Sacoolas outside RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire.


Sacoolas, 43, claimed diplomatic immunity following the tragedy in August last year and flew back home to the States.

She was charged with causing Harry's death by dangerous driving following the shocking road crash.

An extradition request was rejected by the US State Department in January.

At the start of their High Court battle with the Foreign Office, Mr Dunn's parents, Charlotte Charles and Tim Dunn, claim the department wrongly decided Sacoolas had diplomatic immunity and had unlawfully obstructed Northamptonshire Police's investigation into their son's death.

COURT BATTLE

Ms Charles and Mr Dunn initially took legal action against Northamptonshire Police, but that claim was dropped in July. 

In 1995, the UK agreed to an American request to include staff at RAF Croughton on the diplomatic list.

But the UK asked the US to waive immunity of administrative and technical staff in relation to "acts performed outside the course of their duties". 

The Foreign Office said that only applied to staff at RAF Croughton and not family members, meaning Sacoolas did have immunity at the time of the crash. 


At a remote hearing on Wednesday, Sam Wordsworth QC, representing Ms Charles and Mr Dunn, said Sacoolas had "no duties at all" at the base and so "never had any relevant immunity for the US to waive". 

Mr Wordsworth told the court that, under the 1995 agreement, "the US agreed to waive the immunity of the administrative and technical staff from criminal jurisdiction in respect of acts performed outside the course of their duties". 

The barrister added: "It follows that administrative and technical staff at RAF Croughton were only ever entitled to a limited immunity. 

"Mrs Sacoolas could and did only derive her immunities and privileges from Mr Sacoolas in circumstances where no immunity from criminal jurisdiction was conferred on Mr Sacoolas in respect of acts performed outside the course of his duties. 

"Mrs Sacoolas, likewise, had no such immunity, hence she was not immune with respect to the criminal proceedings at issue in this case." 

Mrs Sacoolas…was not immune with respect to the criminal proceedings at issue in this case

Geoffrey Robertson QC – also representing Ms Charles and Mr Dunn – said the Foreign Office "unlawfully decided to accept the US embassy's decision that Anne Sacoolas had immunity". 

He said that decision "obstructed the police by preventing any effective further progress in its investigation into Harry's death and likely prosecution of Anne Sacoolas". 

Mr Robertson argued the Foreign Office "tacitly accepted the Sacoolas family's departure from the UK", referring to a text message sent to a US embassy official on September 14 2019 – a day before Sacoolas and her family left the UK. 

The message read: "I think that now the decision has been taken not to waive (immunity), there's not much mileage in us asking you to keep the family here. 

"It's obviously not us approving of their departure but I think you should be able to put them on the next flight out." 

Mr Robertson added that it would be "absurd" for family members to have "greater privileges and immunities" than the staff at RAF Croughton "from whom their immunity flows". 

In written submissions, Foreign Office barrister, Sir James Eadie QC, said: "As a matter of international and domestic law, Mrs Sacoolas automatically had diplomatic immunity as the spouse of a member of the administrative and technical staff of the US mission." 

He argued the Foreign Office "plainly did not obstruct the police investigation".

Sir James told the court the US "expressly waived the immunity from the UK's criminal jurisdiction of 'employees' or 'staff members'".

But, he added, "at no point is there a waiver of the immunity enjoyed by the families of such individuals". 

He also said Foreign Office officials had "objected in strong terms" to Sacoolas leaving the UK.

Sir James added that the person who sent the text message to a US embassy official last September "had the previous day informed the recipient in person of the UK's strong objections to the US's intended course of action".

The hearing is expected to conclude on Thursday. 

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