The US diplomat whose wife is a suspect in a fatal UK car crash and fled the country may not have had full diplomatic immunity, legal expert says

Business Insider Politics 2 months ago
  • The wife of an American diplomat, named as Anne Sacoolas, in the UK is suspected of killing 19-year-old Briton Harry Dunn in a car crash in England in August.
  • During police investigations Sacoolas and her family claimed diplomatic immunity to return home to the US, despite her telling police she would comply with questioning.
  • However, Jonathan Sacoolas — the husband — does not appear in Britain's official diplomatic list, inviting speculation that the family did not have the right to leave the UK.
  • Legal expert Mark Stephens said this means UK authorities might have been wrong to let Sacoolas leave, and police could apply for her extradition.
  • Sources from both the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Number 10 Downing Street told Insider that Sacoolas had the right to diplomatic immunity, however.
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Anne Sacoolas, the US diplomat's wife who claimed immunity to leave the UK after being involved in a fatal car crash, may not have had the legal right to leave the UK, legal experts say.

Sacoolas is suspected of hitting 19-year-old Harry Dunn with her car near RAF Croughton, a Royal Air Force base used by the US Air Force for its communications, in late August.

Dunn, 19, had been riding his motorbike while Sacoolas was driving her Volvo XC90 luxury SUV on the wrong side of the road, Sky News reported. He died later at a local hospital, The Daily Beast and The Telegraph reported.

She had been in the country for two weeks at the time, The Daily Beast reported. The US and UK drive on different sides of the road.

Northamptonshire Police has not yet responded to Insider's request for confirmation regarding details of the crash and Dunn's death, and how long Anne Sacoolas has been in the UK at the time.

Sacolas initially complied with police shortly after the collision and said she had no plans to leave the UK in the near future, Northamptonshire Police said last week. However, she and her family have since returned home to the US after claiming diplomatic immunity.

Sacoolas and her family — including three children — were privately flown out of a military air base in the UK shortly after the crash, The Telegraph reported. Someone on the American base had advised the family to return home to the US, Sky News reported.

According to the 1961 Vienna Convention, people registered as diplomats and their families are legally entitled to claim immunity from being tried in their host country as long as they are not nationals there as well.

However, her husband — named by UK and US media as Jonathan Sacoolas — does not appear in the UK's official list of diplomats, inviting speculation that the family didn't have the right to claim diplomatic immunity to leave.

Mark Stephens, a British lawyer specializing in constitutional and diplomatic law, said this means the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Northamptonshire Police may not have had the right to let the family leave.

Referring to the Vienna Convention, Stephens told Sky News: "That treaty though doesn't bind Northamptonshire Police and it doesn't bind the family of this poor boy who was deceased, and as a consequence they can apply for her extradition to come back to face manslaughter charges."

Sources close to the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Number 10 Downing Street, however, told Insider that Jonathan Sacoolas had the right to diplomatic immunity.

The Number 10 source also told Insider that the Anne and Jonathan Sacoolas don't appear on the diplomatic list because it only contains the names of people based in missions in London.

It does not encompass all the names of people in the UK with the right to diplomatic immunity, the source added.

The FCO has not responded to Insider's request for comment on Stephens' remarks.

Northamptonshire Police has not yet responded to Insider's request for comment on whether Anne Sacoolas had the right to leave, and their next steps in the case.

Dunn's death and Sacoolas' departure have since been escalated to the highest echelons of US and UK government. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday publicly urged Sacoolas to return to the UK to face questioning.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab also discussed the issue with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday.

"If we can't resolve it, then of course I will be raising it myself, personally, with the White House," Johnson said.

Dunn's parents have also appealed for Sacoolas to return to the UK to face questioning. They have set up a GoFundMe campaign to raise £10,000 ($12,327) and vowed to set up a legal campaign to prevent people from claiming diplomatic immunity in such circumstances.

Stephens, the lawyer, told the BBC "Breakfast" program on Wednesday that Dunn's parents should travel to the US to sue Sacoolas.

The British government "should actually be funding the family" to sue Sacoolas in the US "so they can get the explanation they so richly deserve," he told Sky News.

"I cannot believe how badly the Dunn family have been treated," Stephens tweeted. "Lacking humanity and common decency."


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RT › 1 month ago
Rules on diplomatic immunity are under “review” in the UK after the wife of a US diplomat killed a motorcyclist in a fatal crash and then proceeded to leave the country, citing her husband’s status as a US intelligence officer. Read Full Article...
Evening Standard › 2 months ago
The US diplomat's wife linked to Harry Dunn's fatal crash does not have diplomatic immunity, reports quoting a Foreign Office letter state.
CNN › 2 months ago
An American diplomat's wife involved in a crash that killed 19-year-old Harry Dunn in the UK does not have diplomatic immunity, according to PA Media. The UK news agency says US and UK governments say "immunity is no longer pertinent" in her case.
The Sun › 2 months ago
THE wife of a US diplomat Anne Sacoolas was granted diplomatic immunity after she was involved in a hit and run crash which left a 19-year-old dead. Anne claimed immunity on special circumstances. But how does the process work? What is diplomatic...
The Wall Street Journal › 2 months ago
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called for a U.S. diplomat’s wife who police say was involved in a fatal car crash to return to the U.K., saying she shouldn’t have used diplomatic immunity to leave the country.
The New York Times › 2 months ago
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday he wanted a U.S. diplomat's wife who was involved in a fatal car crash to return to Britain and it was wrong that she had used diplomatic immunity to leave the country.
The New York Times › 2 months ago
Britain's foreign minister on Saturday urged the United States to reconsider its decision to let a U.S. diplomat's wife who was involved in a fatal car crash to use her diplomatic immunity to leave Britain.
Reuters › 2 months ago
Britain's foreign minister on Saturday urged the United States to reconsider its decision to let a U.S. diplomat's wife who was involved in a fatal car crash to use her diplomatic immunity to leave Britain.
Reuters › 2 months ago
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday that he wanted a U.S. diplomat's wife who was involved in a fatal car crash to return to Britain and that it was wrong for her to have used diplomatic immunity to leave the country.
CNN › 2 months ago
The diplomatic immunity of the wife of an American diplomat who is the suspect in a fatal traffic collision that killed a British teenager "is no longer pertinent," the UK Foreign Secretary said Sunday.
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