High Court dismisses judicial review challenge to Anne Sacoolas’ diplomatic immunity

25th Nov 2020

The parents of Harry Dunn, who was killed on 27 August 2019, following a collision between his motorbike and a vehicle being driven by Anne Sacoolas, have lost a High Court challenge to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) determination that at the time of the accident Mrs Sacoolas enjoyed diplomatic immunity. The Dunn family were refused permission to bring a challenge on two further grounds, first that the FCO unlawfully advised the Northamptonshire police that Mrs Sacoolas had immunity and/or obstructed a criminal investigation and second, that the actions of the FCO breached Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, specifically on the duty to have a proper inquiry into Harry’s death.

The court concluded that at the time of Harry Dunn’s death, Mrs Sacoolas had immunity from criminal prosecution in the UK. Mrs Sacoolas’ husband, Jonathan Sacoolas, having been appointed as a member of the US Government’s Administrative and Technical Staff at RAF Croughton in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961 (the Convention) and the FCO having been notified of his status, enjoyed, along with his family members, the privileges and immunities specified in Articles 29 to 35 of the Convention upon their arrival in the UK. Rejecting the submission that Mrs Sacoolas’ immunity derives from an Exchange of Notes between the UK and the US by which arrangements for the stationing of members of the US Embassy at RAF Croughton were first agreed in 1994, the court concluded that the privileges, which include immunity from criminal jurisdiction, instead derive from the Convention and the Diplomatic Privileges Act 1964, which gives effect to the Convention through primary domestic legislation. Such immunity is subject only to a valid waiver made in accordance with Article 32 of the Convention and it is common ground that no such waiver was in existence in respect of Mrs Sacoolas.

Dismissing the claim for judicial review, the court said that it did not come to this conclusion with any enthusiasm for the result but was compelled by the operation of the Convention.

Jasvinder Nakhwal
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7822 7753

Nick Vamos
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7822 7776