Harry Dunn death: Loophole which allowed Anne Sacoolas to claim immunity scrapped under deal with US

Move comes after Dominic Raab was fiercely criticised by Harry’s mother for failing to secure justice for him

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Wednesday 22 July 2020 12:45
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Harry Dunn’s mother ‘emotional’ that diplomatic immunity loophole will be scrapped

A loophole that allowed the US diplomat’s wife who caused the death of British teenager Harry Dunn to claim immunity has been scrapped, under a new deal with Washington.

Dominic Raab said he had reached agreement to allow the prosecution of family members of staff “should these tragic circumstances ever arise again”.

“We have secured the agreement of the US so that the Croughton arrangements could not in future be used in the same way as in the tragic case of Harry Dunn,” the foreign secretary told MPs.

The move comes after Mr Raab was fiercely criticised by Harry’s mother, who accused him of being a “lost child in an adult’s world”, for failing to secure justice for him.

The US is refusing to send back Anne Sacoolas, who was driving the car that hit the 19-year-old’s motorbike in August last year – despite personal pressure from Boris Johnson.

No progress was made despite the controversy being raised again with Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, on his visit to London this week.

Ms Sacoolas returned to the US after the collision, outside the US communications station of RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire, and subsequently claimed diplomatic immunity.

Now Mr Raab has announced the “waiver of immunity from criminal jurisdiction is now expressly extended to the family members of US staff” – “ending the anomaly”, he told MPs.

A written statement added: “The waiver from criminal jurisdiction now extends also to all embassy staff serving at the Croughton Annex in respect of acts outside their official duties, not just administrative and technical staff.”

Charlotte Charles, Harry’s mother, appeared in person at the gates of Downing Street to watch the arrival of Mr Pompeo and to argue that “words are not enough anymore”.

She had appealed to the government to make her son the “top priority” during the visit and said she was tired of previous assurances.

“[Raab] looks defeatist, he looks like a little lost child in an adult’s world. Stand up for us, we are UK citizens,” Ms Charles said.

Her lawyer called for the UK to “suspend the extradition treaty between the US and the UK much like they did with Hong Kong”.

Lisa Nandy, Labour’s shadow Foreign Secretary, said the announcement “again fails to answer crucial questions about the circumstances surrounding the tragic death of Harry Dunn and the series of failures that led to Anne Sacoolas being wrongly allowed to leave the UK”.

“The family must be updated on what discussions the Foreign Secretary had with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to ensure a trial can be held and a verdict reached.”

But Downing Street defended the move, saying: “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.”

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