Police chiefs urge US embassy to waive immunity after fatal crash
The woman wanted for questioning over the crash has left the UK, despite telling police she did not plan to do so.
Police chiefs have written to the US embassy in London to demand immunity is waived for an American diplomat’s wife who is a suspect in relation to a fatal road crash.
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, who has been named in media reports as 42-year-old Anne Sacoolas.
Northamptonshire Police are leading investigations into a collision that killed 19-year-old Harry Dunn, of Charlton, Banbury, on August 27.
Police said the teenager died after his motorbike collided with a car close to RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire, a military base used by the US Air Force.
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 US embassy confirmed the incident had involved a vehicle driven by the spouse of a US diplomat assigned to the 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, Mr Adderley confirmed that he and Stephen Mold, Police Fire and Crime Commissioner for Northamptonshire, had contacted the embassy for immunity to be waived.
Referring to the diplomat’s wife, Mr Adderley told the BBC: “During the initial investigation we were given some assurances by the American authorities that she would co-operate fully with the police and… that she would not be leaving the community, and would not be leaving the country, and then the next minute we found out that, actually, she and her family had left.
“So, it was really disappointing.
“Which prompted the letter from me to say we want to see justice done, and the family have a right to see justice done.”
Speaking to Sky News, Harry’s mother Charlotte Charles the family was not coping with their loss.
She said: “We’re literally just getting through hour to hour every day, going with the flow of what we need to do.
“Harry was always one that fought for what he thought was right. We’re honouring him by doing this.
“It’s not much to ask – she’s left a family in complete ruin. We’re broken inside and out – many of us, not just direct parents, but the siblings, the grandparents, aunties, uncles, nieces – we’re all broken.
“We’re just utterly shocked and appalled that somebody has been allowed to get on a plane and go home and avoid our justice system.”
She's got to be suffering as well - she's a mum. Charlotte Charles
Asked if she had a message for Mrs Sacoolas, Ms Charles said: “Just come home. Come back to us. Come back to the UK.
“We’re not a horrible family. We’re a usual UK family that just need to put a face to what we have now as a name.
“Talk to her, find out how she’s feeling. She’s got to be suffering as well – she’s a mum.
“Without knowing who this person is properly, we can’t begin to try and start our grieving process.”
Speaking of the lengths the family would go to have closure from the incident, Ms Charles said: “If we have to we will go to Washington. We don’t want it to have to come to that, we don’t see why it should have to come to that… we just want to sit and talk with her.
“We just don’t understand how you can just get on a plane and leave behind the devastation she has without even speaking to us or facing us, or an apology of any kind.”
The teenager’s father Tim Dunn said: “It’s appalling. You can’t have this precedent where just because you have this immunity you can do whatever.
“It’s just basically saying ‘you do what you like and you’ll be OK’. That can’t be right.”
Describing what Harry was like as a person, Mr Dunn told Sky News: “He was like the centrepiece of the family really. He was always joking and laughing.
“His love for life, it had come to all of us – he was just perfect.”
Asked what he understood about diplomatic immunity, Mr Dunn said: “We’ve looked into this, and the immunity for the diplomat is to keep them safe… not for something like this where they have hurt somebody.
“I don’t see how that can be – how they can hurt somebody and just leave. It doesn’t make sense to me.
“We appreciate there has to be immunity for certain things, but not immunity for wrong-doing.”
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.
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.