A claim of diplomatic immunity by Anne Sacoolas is a “palpable absurdity”, according to a former British ambassador.
Sir Ivor Roberts, who was the UK’s representative in Serbia, Ireland and Italy during his long career as a diplomat, described the claim of diplomatic immunity from Harry Dunn’s alleged killer as “wholly illogical”.
Further doubts over the immunity claim have also been cast by ex-government minister Sir Toby Baldry, who signed the 1995 agreement covering the military base where Sacoolas’s husband worked.
Sacoolas, whose husband is thought to be a US intelligence officer, is accused of driving the car that collided with Mr Dunn‘s motorbike in a fatal crash last summer.
Following the 19-year-old’s death in the crash outside RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire in August 2019, a judicial review has been launched into Sacoolas’s claim to diplomatic immunity – which means she is exempt from prosecution.
Mr Dunn’s parents, Charlotte Charles and Tim Dunn, alleged that Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab acted unlawfully over Sacoolas’s departure from the UK.
They have said that Sacoolas – in line with agreements made between the UK and the US – should have had her claim to immunity pre-waived.
But the Foreign Office has argued – because Sacoolas was notified to them as a spouse – and dependants were not mentioned in the so-called Exchange of Notes, her immunity was not pre-waived, in what they have described as an “anomaly”.
Sir Ivor has questioned Sacoolas’s claim to immunity but Lord Justice Flaux dismissed an application to include the former ambassador’s evidence at the judicial review trial, scheduled for October or November.
Before the application was dismissed, Sir Ivor said in a statement: “It is wholly illogical and against any sensible interpretation of the Vienna Convention to waive immunity for a member of staff and not to do so for a member of his or her household.
“This could lead to the absurd position whereby if Mr Sacoolas had taken a Sunday afternoon drive, ie. not on official business, and had had the accident with Harry Dunn, he would not enjoy immunity from criminal jurisdiction but were his wife driving and he were the passenger, she would enjoy that immunity.
“In a more extreme example of domestic violence, were the US official to kill his wife after a domestic argument he would not enjoy immunity from criminal jurisdiction whereas if the roles were reversed and she killed him, she would benefit from immunity.
“A palpable absurdity.”
However the judicial review will hear evidence from former Foreign Office minister Sir Tony, who signed the agreement with the US covering RAF Croughton.
He said he believed Foreign Office lawyers would not have “created a situation whereby immunity was waived for agents outside work, but not for their spouses”.
In his witness statement, Sir Tony said: “We were obviously extremely unhappy at the prospect of technicians and their dependants being placed above the law and this I made clear by instructing that any agreement must be conditional upon the waiver.
“I am sure that the US did not and would not have raised any specific request for dependants to be exempted from the law – had they done so I would have refused or at the very least referred this matter to the Secretary of State for him to decide.
“I cannot imagine any government agreeing to such an arrangement.”
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