THE family of a teen allegedly killed by the wife of a US diplomat could sue the American government over the tragedy, a law expert says.
Anne Sacoolas, 42, is believed to have pulled out on the wrong side of the road and collided with 19-year-old Harry Dunn, before pleading diplomatic immunity and fleeing the UK.
Harry Dunn, 19, died when a car travelling on the wrong side of the road collided with his motorbike[/caption]
Harry’s family could now try sue the US government over the case, a top lawyer said.
American international law expert Professor David Glazier told Sun Online: “There’s a strong case to be made that if the US government is asserting immunity on behalf of this person then the US government assumes liability for their conduct.”
Professor Glazier, a professor of law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, explained: “Diplomatic immunity technically covers civil lawsuits and criminal prosecution.
“When the individual receives immunity for conduct related to their official business – so if she were driving and it had something to do with their official duties – then the immunity is lifelong.
“But when an individual is engaged in personal conduct, the immunity only lasts for the period of time they’re assigned to that country.
“So in theory, now she’s back in the United States, her immunity should likely be considered to have ended and that should mean she’s subject to civil suits.”
The challenge, Professor Glazier explains, is how a British court could get jurisdiction over someone who has fled the country.
He says: “It’s more of a practical problem.”
I think there’s a fair chance they successfully sue the US government.”Professor David Glazier
The top lawyer continues: “However it may also be possible to sue the United States government because if someone is asserting immunity based on a connection to the US government then it may be possible that if you can’t sue the individual, you can sue the government.
“Generally speaking, nations are considered to have sovereign immunity – which means they are generally immune from suits in the courts of another country.
“But there are several exceptions and one of those is the commission of a tort – a negligent act like running into someone on a highway.
“So definitely if it had been the husband and we know he is a government employee there’d be no doubt you could sue the US government but I think there’s a strong case to be made that if the US government is asserting immunity on behalf of this person then the US government assumes liability for their conduct.”
He added: “I think there’s a fair chance they successfully sue the US government.”
Brit legal expert Professor Craig Barker agreed the Dunn family’s lawyers could make this argument to try to challenge the law and get justice for Harry.
But the Dean of the School of Law and Social Sciences at London South Bank University was less optimistic about their chances.
He pointed out nobody had ever tried to sue a government in court over diplomatic immunity before, but added: “Laws are there to be challenged.”
Prof Barker said it was much more likely that the US government would agree to pay compensation to Harry’s family, like the Libyans paid the family of PC Yvonne Fletcher.
PC Fletcher was fatally wounded on April 17, 1984, by a bullet fired from inside the Libyan embassy in London.
The other motorist in the collision, which occurred outside RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire, is reported to be the wife of a US spy[/caption]
It comes as Sun Online can reveal that both Sacoolas and her husband – believed to be a US spy – have racked up a string of driving convictions in the States before moving to the UK.
Sacoolas, a mum of two, was even once convicted of running through a a level crossing, while her husband – was rapped for speeding and ignoring traffic signs.
It was revealed yesterday that Sacoolas was found guilty of “failure to pay full time and attention” at the end of 2006 in Fairfax County, Virginia.
But Sun Online has since discovered she was also convicted of “disregarding” an “RR” or “railroad” signal in the state of South Carolina in 1997, according to Richland County court filings.
According to court records in Fairfax, Virginia, her husband was charged with “failure to obey highway sign” in April 2013 and was supposed to how up to court a month later, but this was “waived” and he received a fine.
Other records show he was found guilty of “reckless” driving and speeding 92mph in a 65mph zone in Loudoun County, back in 2000.
Harry died after Sacoolas allegedly collided with his motorbike outside RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire in August.
The teen’s heartbroken mum and dad have appealed to the US government to intervene in the case and ensure justice can be done.
Charlotte Charles and Tim Dunn said: “President Trump, please listen. We’re a family in ruin. We’re broken.
“We can’t grieve. Please, please let her get back on a plane.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has also threatened to raise the issue with the White House if necessary.
“I think everybody’s sympathies are with the family of Harry Dunn for their tragic loss,” he said.
“But I do not think that it can be right to use the process of diplomatic immunity for this type of purpose.
“I hope Anne Sacoolas will come back and will engage properly with the processes of law that are carried out in this country.
“That is the point we are raising today with the US ambassador and I hope it will be resolved very shortly.
“If we can’t resolve then of course I will raising it myself personally with the White House.”