US should 'reconsider its decision' over immunity for diplomat's wife suspected over fatal collision

7 October 2019, 07:50

Harry Dunn, 19, was killed in the crash on August 27
Harry Dunn, 19, was killed in the crash on August 27. Picture: Justice4Harry

By Megan White

The Prime Minister has said the US should reconsider its decision" to give immunity to a diplomat's wife wanted by British police over a fatal road crash.

Harry Dunn, 19, was killed after his motorbike collided with a car close to RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire, a military base used by the US Air Force, on August 27.

Police have said the woman allegedly involved in the accident had left the UK, despite telling officers she did not plan to do so.

The suspect in the August 27 crash is believed to be 42-year-old Anne Sacoolas.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "The details of this case are extremely concerning and the Foreign Secretary has discussed it with the US ambassador.

"The justice process should be allowed to take place and we urge the US to reconsider their decision.

"The Prime Minister offers his condolences to the Dunn family - this was a tragic set of events that no family should have to experience."

Nick Adderley, chief constable for Northamptonshire Police, said US authorities had been appealed to in "the strongest terms" to apply a waiver and "allow the justice process to take place" in relation to the woman.

The American embassy confirmed the incident had involved a vehicle driven by the spouse of a US diplomat assigned to UK who had departed the country, adding that diplomatic immunity was "rarely waived".

In a statement, the embassy said: "We express our deepest sympathies and offer condolences to the family of the deceased in this tragic traffic accident.

"Any questions regarding a waiver of the immunity with regard to our diplomats and their family members overseas in a case like this receive intense attention at senior levels and are considered carefully given the global impact such decisions carry; immunity is rarely waived.

"The US embassy has been and will continue to be in close contact with appropriate British officials.

"Out of privacy and security concerns, the embassy will not comment on the identity of the driver."

Responding to a question on Twitter on Sunday, Mr Adderley confirmed that he and Stephen Mold, Police Fire and Crime Commissioner for Northamptonshire, had contacted the embassy for immunity to be waived.

The teenager was killed when his motorcycle collided with a car
The teenager was killed when his motorcycle collided with a car. Picture: Justice4Harry

Speaking to ITV News, Mr Dunn's parents, from Banbury, said they had been "trapped in a living nightmare" since their son's death.

His mother Charlotte Charles said they were prepared to travel to the US to seek a resolution to their situation.

She told ITV News: "We're not going to be swept under the carpet.

"Harry always fought for what he believed in... we're going to carry on that.

"We'll go as far as we need to go, to get justice for our boy and to do our best to stop another family suffering".

The teenager's father Tim Dunn added: "We can't let our son die and then nothing be answered for."

Under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, families of diplomats are granted immunity from arrest or detention, with the sending state able to issue a waiver of that immunity.

Harry's mother Charlotte Charles is demanding justice for her son
Harry's mother Charlotte Charles is demanding justice for her son. Picture: Justice4Harry

According to the Crown Prosecution Service, the immunity does not apply to dependants of consular officials based outside of London.

However, it is understood that some diplomatic staff and their spouses located outside the capital can get that immunity.

Radd Seiger, a spokesman for Mr Dunn's family, said British authorities had asked their US counterparts for immunity to be waived "several times".

He said: "They've been told the answer is no, we've learnt via the police. The answer has come back as no."

Speaking to Sky News on Sunday, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said Mr Dunn's family "have our absolute assurance that we're going to do everything we can to resolve this.

"We want the police to be able to continue their enquiries and for whatever actions they deem fit to be to take place and for justice to be done."

Business Secretary and South Northamptonshire Tory MP Andrea Leadsom has already met with Mr Dunn's family and said they are "totally heartbroken".

She added: "We have to get proper justice for Harry and closure for his family."

It is understood that Mr Dunn's family are to meet with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab in the coming days.