Status is ‘no longer pertinent’ says foreign secretary in letter sent to parents of Harry Dunn
Sun 13 Oct 2019 10.34 BSTFirst published on Sun 13 Oct 2019
Anne Sacoolas no longer has diplomatic immunity over the road crash that killed 19-year-old Harry Dunn, the Foreign Office has said.
Sacoolas, 42, the wife of a US diplomat, left the UK shortly after the collision between Dunn’s motorbike and a car outside RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire on 27 August.
She is believed to have been driving the car but while she met with Northamptonshire police no investigation followed after the force was advised by the UK government that she had the protective status granted to foreign diplomats.
But after days of controversy surrounding the case, a letter from Dominic Raab to Dunn’s family seen by the BBC has suggested that her return to the US has rendered that status irrelevant.
“The US have now informed us that they too consider that immunity is no longer pertinent,” the foreign secretary’s letter says.
“We have pressed strongly for a waiver of immunity, so that justice can be done … Whilst the US government has steadfastly declined to give that waiver, that is not the end of the matter.”
It added: “We have looked at this very carefully … the UK government’s position is that immunity, and therefore any question of waiver, is no longer relevant in Mrs Sacoolas’ case, because she has returned home.”
Amid questions over the initial advice to Northamptonshire police, the home secretary told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday that the government was committed to ensuring “justice is done”.
“It very much seems that the lady in question wants to start cooperating with the discussions and the investigations and I think we should support that,” said Priti Patel.
“We need to ensure that justice is done. This is a terribly tragic case. The family needs to have the assurance obviously that the investigation will be thorough, will take place and that cooperation will also take place. That’s what we are committed to working to achieve.”
The family’s lawyer, Mark Stephens, said on Sky News on Sunday morning: “She wasn’t entitled to diplomatic immunity in the first place.”
Calling Sacoolas “a fugitive from British justice”, he suggested that the family could take legal action against her in a US court.
“Even if she were entitled to diplomatic immunity it only applies in the host country, so the UK. It does not apply in your home country …
“That means the Dunn family can sue her in the United States for the explanation that they need to psychologically get closure on the first part of their grieving process and move on with the grieving process.”
Sacoolas, whose husband worked at the Air Force station, had only been in the country for three weeks at the time of the incident and she is said to have been “devastated” by it.
A statement issued on her behalf by legal representative Amy Jeffress said: “Anne is devastated by this tragic accident. No loss compares to the death of a child and Anne extends her deepest sympathy to Harry Dunn’s family.”
“She spoke with authorities at the scene of the accident and met with the Northampton police at her home the following day. She will continue to co-operate with the investigation,” it continued.
The couple are scheduled to fly to the United States on Sunday ahead of visits to both New York and Washington DC.
Radd Seiger, who is representing the family, said their aim was to “put pressure on the US administration to do the right thing”.
He said he had spoken “very briefly” to Sacoolas’s legal team over the phone after arriving in the country on Saturday. “We have agreed to meet each other at the earliest possibility as soon as we can coordinate our diaries,” Seiger added.
The contact is the first between both parties since Sacoolas left the UK over a month ago.
On Friday, Boris Johnson said the US had been “absolutely ruthless” in its safeguarding of Sacoolas from facing investigation.
The prime minister said that although Donald Trump expressed sympathy towards Dunn’s family’s views the use of diplomatic immunity, America was “very reluctant” to allow citizens to be tried abroad.
His comments followed the revelation that Sacoolas would not return to the UK after briefing notes held by Trump were photographed at a White House news conference.
Source: The Guardian