Harry Dunn’s ‘killer’ Anne Sacoolas DID have diplomatic immunity, High Court rules

Harry Dunn’s parents broke down today after they lost their High Court battle against the Foreign Office over whether their son’s alleged killer had diplomatic immunity.

Mr Dunn, 19, died when his motorbike was hit by a car being driven on the wrong side of the road by American Anne Sacoolas outside RAF Croughton, Northamptonshire, on August 27 last year.

Sacoolas, whose husband Jonathan Sacoolas worked as a technical assistant at the base, left the country a few weeks later after the US said she was entitled to diplomatic immunity.

The 43-year-old was ultimately charged with causing death by dangerous driving last December, but an extradition request was rejected by the US State Department in January – a decision it later described as ‘final’.

Lawyer’s acting for Harry’s parents, Charlotte Charles and Tim Dunn, say Mrs Sacoolas was never entitled to immunity and foreign office officials were wrong to say she did.

They say Dominic Raab’s department then acted unlawfully and obstructed Northamptonshire Police’s investigation into their son’s death by keeping the force ‘in the dark’ as she was swept out of Britain on a private jet.

But today the High Court ruled in the Foreign Office’s favour that Sacoolas had diplomatic immunity when she arrived in the UK, although the family will now appeal. 

Harry’s father Tim sobbed after hearing the news this morning and said: ‘I still wake up every morning in absolute disbelief that we are in this situation at all. It’s bad enough feeling the horrible pain of not having Harry around and missing him, but I can’t believe the [US and British] governments are putting us through this.

‘It all seems so cruel and needless and I am just as angry today as I ever have been but so determined to see it all through until we have justice.’  

Harry Dunn, 19, was killed when his motorbike crashed into a car being driven on the wrong side of the road by American Anne Sacoolas outside RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire

Harry Dunn, 19, was killed when his motorbike crashed into a car being driven on the wrong side of the road by American Anne Sacoolas outside RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire

Sacoolas, whose husband Jonathan Sacoolas worked as a technical assistant at the Nortrhanptonshire base, left the country a few weeks later after the US said she was entitled to diplomatic immunity

Sacoolas, whose husband Jonathan Sacoolas worked as a technical assistant at the Nortrhanptonshire base, left the country a few weeks later after the US said she was entitled to diplomatic immunity

Harry Dunn, 19, (left) was killed when his motorbike crashed into a car being driven on the wrong side of the road by American Anne Sacoolas (right in the US) outside RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire

Mr Dunn's parents, Charlotte Charles and Tim Dunn (pictured today with spokesman Radd Seiger centre), claim the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office wrongly decided Sacoolas had diplomatic immunity and unlawfully obstructed Northamptonshire Police's investigation into their son's death by keeping the force 'in the dark'

Mr Dunn's parents, Charlotte Charles and Tim Dunn (pictured today with spokesman Radd Seiger centre), claim the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office wrongly decided Sacoolas had diplomatic immunity and unlawfully obstructed Northamptonshire Police's investigation into their son's death by keeping the force 'in the dark'

Mr Dunn’s parents, Charlotte Charles and Tim Dunn (pictured today with spokesman Radd Seiger centre), claim the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office wrongly decided Sacoolas had diplomatic immunity and unlawfully obstructed Northamptonshire Police’s investigation into their son’s death by keeping the force ‘in the dark’

Mr Dunn broke down and was comforted by Charlotte as they vowed to fight on for their son

Mr Dunn broke down and was comforted by Charlotte as they vowed to fight on for their son

Mr Dunn broke down and was comforted by Charlotte as they vowed to fight on for their son

Mr Dunn broke down and was comforted by Charlotte as they vowed to fight on for their son

Mr Dunn broke down and was comforted by Charlotte as they vowed to fight on for their son

How was Anne Sacoolas able to flee back to the US as British police investigated? 

Anne Sacoolas was travelling on the wrong side of the road for 400 yards before hitting Harry Dunn head-on - and her own 12-year-old son was in the passenger seat, it was claimed today.

Anne Sacoolas was travelling on the wrong side of the road for 400 yards before hitting Harry Dunn head-on - and her own 12-year-old son was in the passenger seat, it was claimed today.

US diplomat’s wife Anne Sacoolas fled the UK after allegedly killing 19-year-old Harry Dunn in August by running him over in her car 

Anne Sacoolas used a loophole to claim diplomatic immunity after allegedly killing Harry Dunn in a crash involving her Volvo SUV.

It was believed that diplomatic immunity only applied to US officials – and their families – if they worked at the US Embassy in London.

But it appears that because of the work done at RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire – a US intelligence hub in Britain – the same applies there. 

Sky News claims an immunity deal between the UK and US there started in  1994.

As a result Northamptonshire Police were planning to get Anne Sacoolas to sign a ‘waiver of diplomatic immunity’ – but she, her husband and their children fled on a private jet.

Harry’s family claim that Mrs Sacoolas had promised to work with police and admitted culpability. 

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The judges also rejected Mrs Charles and Mr Dunn’s claim the FCDO ‘usurped’ Northamptonshire Police’s investigation into their son’s death, finding officials ‘sought to assist rather than obstruct Northamptonshire Police in their investigation’. 

Harry’s mother Charlotte Charles said: ‘The Government and Mrs Sacoolas need to understand that this court ruling is just a blip along the way.

‘I promised my boy I would get him justice and that is just what we are going to do. No one is going to stand in our way.’

She added: ‘It’s obviously disappointing that this court did not find in our favour but we are more focused now than ever on fulfilling our promise.’

Mrs Charles and Mr Dunn’s case centred on a 1995 agreement between the UK and the US, granting immunity to administrative and technical staff at RAF Croughton, which the US waived in relation to ‘acts performed outside the course of their duties’.

At a hearing earlier this month, their lawyers said the FCDO ‘took upon itself the authority to resolve the question of immunity and ultimately and unlawfully decided to accept the US embassy’s decision that Anne Sacoolas had immunity’.

Sam Wordsworth QC told the court that Sacoolas had ‘no duties at all’ at the base and therefore ‘never had any relevant immunity for the US to waive’.

But Lord Justice Flaux and Mr Justice Saini found Sacoolas had diplomatic immunity ‘on arrival in the UK’ under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (VCDR) which had not been ‘expressly waived’, meaning she ‘had immunity at the time of Harry’s death’.

The judges said: ‘We do not come this conclusion with any enthusiasm for the result, but it is compelled by the operation of the VCDR.’ 

The spokesman for Harry Dunn’s family has said the parents are appealing against the High Court judgment.

Radd Seiger said they are appealing to the Court of Appeal on ‘strong legal advice’ and are ‘confident that the ruling will ultimately be overturned in the senior courts’.   

Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, said: ‘My thoughts today are with Harry’s family. While this judgment makes clear the Foreign Office acted properly and lawfully throughout, I appreciate that won’t provide any solace to the family in their search for justice. We stand with them, we’re clear that Anne Sacoolas needs to face justice in the UK, and we will support the family with their legal claim in the US.’

Dominic Raab insists he and his department stand by Harry's parents. But Harry's mother Charlotte (pictured today) said: 'No one is going to stand in our way'

Dominic Raab insists he and his department stand by Harry's parents. But Harry's mother Charlotte (pictured today) said: 'No one is going to stand in our way'

Dominic Raab insists he and his department stand by Harry’s parents. But Harry’s mother Charlotte (pictured today) said: ‘No one is going to stand in our way’

On the second day of a remote hearing last week, the FCDO’s barrister Sir James Eadie QC said rules on diplomatic immunity and any waivers were ‘super clear’.

23,000 in UK are given immunity 

 Foreign diplomats and their families are immune from prosecution in their host country under the 1961 Vienna Convention.

It means that 23,000 people in the UK who hold this status cannot automatically be hauled before the courts if they commit a crime.

However, when an envoy or a relative is accused of a serious offence the Foreign Office will ask their home country to waive immunity.

Usually, immunity only covers diplomats and families based in London. However, a special deal is in place which gives it to diplomats and relatives based at RAF Croughton. American officials are said to have turned down the waiver request in Harry Dunn’s case because the suspect’s husband is a spy and they want to protect his identity.

It is understood US authorities told the accused woman to get on a plane. In the past, the Foreign Office has expelled diplomats suspected of serious crimes.

Last year it emerged that an attache accused of two rapes was thrown out of Britain because his country would not waive his immunity. Other allegations included sexual assault against a diplomat from Algeria, blackmail (Egypt) and possession of a firearm (Cambodia). 

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In written submissions, he said Sacoolas ‘automatically had diplomatic immunity as the spouse of a member of the administrative and technical staff of the US mission’.

In 1995, the UK agreed to an American request to include staff at RAF Croughton on the diplomatic list, but asked the US to waive the immunity of administrative and technical staff in relation to ‘acts performed outside the course of their duties’.

Sir James said the US ‘expressly waived the immunity from the UK’s criminal jurisdiction of ’employees’ or ‘staff members’, but ‘at no point is there a waiver of the immunity enjoyed by the families of such individuals’.

He argued that the waiver ‘did not cover family members’ so Sacoolas did have immunity at the time of the crash.

In July, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab announced ‘the US waiver of immunity from criminal jurisdiction is now expressly extended to the family members of US staff’ at the base, ‘ending the anomaly in the previous arrangements’.

Sir James told the court there was ‘nothing inconsistent between the clear effect’ of the 1995 agreement and Mr Raab ‘acknowledging that the effect of the arrangements, correctly analysed, was anomalous’.

In a witness statement previously before the court, Hugo Shorter – the FCDO’s director for the Americas – said officials thought the US was ‘exploiting the wording’ of the agreement shortly after Mr Dunn’s death, but that ‘there was nothing that the UK could do to prevent (Sacoolas’) return to the US’.

Sir James also said FCDO officials had ‘objected in strong terms’ to Sacoolas leaving the UK, and ‘repeatedly emphasised’ that the department ‘wanted the Sacoolas family to co-operate with the UK authorities’.

He added: ‘Since Mrs Sacoolas’s departure, the UK has communicated its disappointment to the US on multiple occasions, and at the highest levels, and repeated the position that Mrs Sacoolas should engage with the UK criminal and judicial process.’

On Wednesday, Geoffrey Robertson QC – representing Ms Charles and Mr Dunn – said the FCDO ‘took upon itself the authority to resolve the question of immunity and ultimately and unlawfully decided to accept the US embassy’s decision that Anne Sacoolas had immunity’.

He said that decision ‘obstructed the police by preventing any effective further progress in its investigation into Harry’s death and likely prosecution of Anne Sacoolas’.

Mr Robertson argued the FCDO ‘tacitly accepted the Sacoolas family’s departure from the UK’, referring to a text message sent to a US embassy official on September 14 2019 – a day before Sacoolas and her family left the UK.

The message read: ‘I think that now the decision has been taken not to waive (immunity), there’s not much mileage in us asking you to keep the family here.

‘It’s obviously not us approving of their departure but I think you should be able to put them on the next flight out.’

Harry is pictured with his mother Charlotte Charles. Ms Charles and Mr Dunn initially also took legal action against Northamptonshire Police but that claim was dropped in July, with the family's spokesman saying the force had been 'absolved of any blame'

Harry is pictured with his mother Charlotte Charles. Ms Charles and Mr Dunn initially also took legal action against Northamptonshire Police but that claim was dropped in July, with the family's spokesman saying the force had been 'absolved of any blame'

Harry is pictured with his mother Charlotte Charles. Ms Charles and Mr Dunn initially also took legal action against Northamptonshire Police but that claim was dropped in July, with the family’s spokesman saying the force had been ‘absolved of any blame’

But Sir James said the person who sent that message ‘had the previous day informed the recipient in person of the UK’s strong objections to the US’s intended course of action, but it was clear that there was no realistic prospect of convincing the US to change its approach’.

Ms Charles and Mr Dunn initially also took legal action against Northamptonshire Police but that claim was dropped in July, with the family’s spokesman saying the force had been ‘absolved of any blame’.

The hearing before Lord Justice Flaux and Mr Justice Saini is due to conclude on Thursday afternoon and it is expected the court will reserve its judgment to a later date.

WHY ARE AMERICANS AT RAF CROUGHTON IN THE UK?

RAF Croughton is an air base that is currently being leased by the US government. 

It houses the 422nd Air Base Group, but is also being used by spies working for the Joint Intelligence Operations Center Europe (JIOCEUR). 

JIOCEUR is a military intelligence analysis center which is part of the Defense Intelligence Agency. The agency is an external branch of government which provides intelligence to ‘warfighters, defense policymakers and force planners in the Department of Defense and the Intelligence Community’. 

The entrance to RAF Croughton is shown. Sacoolas was exiting the base when she turned onto the wrong side of the road on August 27

The entrance to RAF Croughton is shown. Sacoolas was exiting the base when she turned onto the wrong side of the road on August 27

The entrance to RAF Croughton is shown. Sacoolas was exiting the base when she turned onto the wrong side of the road on August 27

It provides intelligence information for the U.S. European and African commands as well as NATO.  

The Center is based at RAF Molesworth in Cambridgeshire but, following the 2015 announcement that it was to close in 2023, many of the positions were moved to Croughton. 

There are plans to consolidate it with the U.S. Africa Command to make a larger station at Croughton that will be known as the Joint Intelligence Analysis Complex – a major hub for US intelligence gathering.

According to locals in Croughton, the communications center – where Sacoolas’ husband is said to work – is a ‘site within the site’ which has its own separate security.  

The US government is reconsidering the relocation after being met with resistance from lawmakers who said it would be too expensive.  

A file photo of a geodesic dome covering radar scanners and satellite dishes at the base. It is an intelligence gathering hub which the US Defense Intelligence Agency uses to collect information from Europe and Africa

A file photo of a geodesic dome covering radar scanners and satellite dishes at the base. It is an intelligence gathering hub which the US Defense Intelligence Agency uses to collect information from Europe and Africa

A file photo of a geodesic dome covering radar scanners and satellite dishes at the base. It is an intelligence gathering hub which the US Defense Intelligence Agency uses to collect information from Europe and Africa 

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