UK and US vow to close Harry Dunn 'diplomatic immunity' loophole

22 July 2020, 12:10

August 27 marks the anniversary of Harry Dunn's death
August 27 marks the anniversary of Harry Dunn's death. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

The UK and US have agreed to amend the "anomaly" that allowed Harry Dunn's alleged killer Anne Sacoolas to claim diplomatic immunity, the Foreign Secretary has said.

Harry, 19, was killed when his motorbike crashed into a car outside a US military base in Northamptonshire on August 27 last year.

A court hearing last month heard that a "secret agreement" permitted Anne Sacoolas to return to her home country after the crash last year.

Despite the "anomaly" now having been amended in the immunity agreements surrounding RAF Croughton, the Northamptonshire military base near where Harry Dunn died in a road collision, Ms Sacoolas remains in the US.

Harry's mother Charlotte Charles said Wednesday's announcement was a "huge step forward" - adding that one of the family's aims was for this to "never happen to another family again".

She said their campaign would continue for Ms Sacoolas to return to the UK.

In a written statement, Dominic Raab said: "First and foremost, the US waiver of immunity from criminal jurisdiction is now expressly extended to the family members of US staff at the Croughton Annex, thus ending the anomaly in the previous arrangements and permitting the criminal prosecution of the family members of those staff, should these tragic circumstances ever arise again.

"We have the deepest sympathy for Harry Dunn's family. No family should have to experience what they have gone through and I recognise that these changes will not bring Harry back.

"However, I hope that the knowledge that the Croughton arrangements have been revised and that a family in their position would now see justice done brings some small measure of comfort."

Giving his thoughts on the announcement surrounding the immunity agreements at RAF Croughton, the Foreign Secretary said: "It's important that we have now agreed with the US new arrangements that have closed the anomaly that led to the denial of justice in the heart-breaking case of Harry Dunn.

"The new arrangements mean it could not happen again," Dominic Raab added.

"I know these changes won't bring Harry back, and I appreciate the pain and suffering the family are still going through.

"But I hope this may bring some small measure of comfort to them, because I know they want to prevent any other family going through the same ordeal they have."

Downing Street said ending the legal "anomaly" would mean that cases like the one involving Anne Sacoolas and the death of Harry Dunn should not happen in the future.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "What these revised arrangements mean in practice is that, in relation to the level of offence Anne Sacoolas is accused of, she could have been arrested by the police once they had obtained a warrant from the court.

"It gives a very clear understanding that diplomats and their families should co-operate with the criminal justice process in the UK.

"In terms of Anne Sacoolas there is no change to our position, which continues to be that justice must be done for Harry Dunn and his family and we continue to call for the return of Anne Sacoolas to the UK."

Anne Sacoolas returned to the US following the alleged incident
Anne Sacoolas returned to the US following the alleged incident. Picture: PA

In a statement released after the announcement surrounding the immunity agreements at RAF Croughton, Northamptonshire Police said: "Northamptonshire Police has today been advised by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office that they have reached an agreement with the US government to restrict the immunity from criminal jurisdiction of embassy staff, officers and family members at RAF Croughton.

"While we understand these changes will not be retrospective, Northamptonshire Police welcomes these changes.

"Northamptonshire Police remains committed to working with colleagues in the Crown Prosecution Service to ensure Anne Sacoolas is returned from the US to allow criminal proceedings to go ahead here in the UK."

The US State Department said the amendment of the diplomatic immunity arrangements at RAF Croughton "is a reflection of our especially close relationship" with the UK.

A spokesman said: "Under the arrangement, the United States has extended pre-emptive, limited waivers of certain diplomatic immunities pertaining to the staff of the Embassy office in Croughton and their family members for acts performed outside the course of official duties that occur on or after July 20, 2020.

"This arrangement is a reflection of our especially close relationship with the government of the United Kingdom."

Earlier this week, Harry Dunn's mother made an emotional appeal for the Prime Minister to make her son "top priority" during the US Secretary of State's visit, which is currently ongoing.

Charlotte Charles urged Boris Johnson, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and Mike Pompeo to discuss the case of her son.

In a video statement, she said: "Mr Raab, Mr Pompeo, Mr Johnson, when you get together next week with all of your families fully intact whilst mine is in complete tatters and my family has been ripped apart, can you please, please discuss Harry?

"We've been assured he's high on your list of priorities to discuss amongst all of the other important global issues that you have surrounding you but please, please make him top priority."

Ms Charles added: "It's been nearly a year, please don't let this roll into a second year.

"We've got his anniversary coming up which is going to be beyond painful for us.

"We don't want a repeat of the last 11 months. It has been horrific. You wouldn't wish it on your worst enemy. I don't want to relive any of it ever again.

"It's just about doing the right thing. It always has been, it always will be.

"We've always agreed immunity does need to be in place for certain circumstances. This isn't one of them.

"Bring Anne Sacoolas back to the UK, face the justice system."