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ENGLISH HIGH COURT RULES CIA OPERATIVE'S WIFE HAS DIPLOMATIC IMMUNITY (B1+)

On the 24th November 2020, the English High Court delivered its judgment in the case of The Queen (Dunn) v The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.


In August 2019, a 19-year-old called Harry Dunn was killed in a motorcycle accident in Northamptonshire, England. Mr Dunn died a few hours after a head-on collision with a car being driven by a lady called Ann Sacoolas. At the time of the accident, it is alleged that Mrs Sacoolas was driving on the wrong side of the road. Mrs Sacoolas is married to Jonathan Sacoolas, an operative of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) who was, in August 2019, working at a US air force base in Northamptonshire.


A few weeks after the incident, Mrs Sacoolas and her family left the UK to return to the United States. She has refused to return to the UK to face allegations of dangerous driving. Her refusal is based on the claim that, as the wife of Jonathan Sacoolas, she has diplomatic immunity from prosecution.


For several months, there has been a diplomatic incident between the US and the UK over the case. The United States refused to accept a warrant for Mrs Sacoolas’s extradition to the UK. Harry Dunn’s family took legal advice about the matter. They brought legal proceedings against the UK Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, on three grounds:


1. That the Foreign Secretary was wrong in deciding that Mrs Sacoolas had diplomatic immunity;

2. That the UK Foreign Office were wrong in the advice they gave to Northamptonshire Police about Mrs Sacoolas’s diplomatic status; and

3. That grounds 1 and 2 breached Articles 2 and 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.


For legal reasons, the High Court refused to grant permission for judicial review on grounds 2 and 3. And, although the High Court granted permission for judicial review on ground 1, the court then refused the application and held that Mrs Sacoolas did have full diplomatic immunity at the time of the accident.


The case is important, because it deals with the limits on diplomatic immunity for family members of those who enjoy ‘limited diplomatic immunity’ from criminal prosecution for ‘acts performed in the course of his duties’. The Dunn family and their legal team have said that they will appeal against the decision of the High Court.

The full judgment of the High Court can be found here: https://www.judiciary.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/R-Dunn-v-SOS-for-Foreign-and-Commonwealth-Affairs.pdf



Exercise

Can you find a word or phrase in the text which means:


1. Something which is said to have happened, but which has not been proved yet

2. A privilege which is given to certain people who work officially for foreign governments in another country which means, for example, that they will not be prosecuted if they commit a criminal offence.

3. An official document issued by a government or court which authorises the police (or other body) to arrest someone, search their property, etc.

4. The formal process of a state handing over an individual to another state for prosecution in relation to a crime in that other state.

5. A process by which a court can look at the actions of, for example, a government department or other official body, to make sure it has acted according to the law.







Answer Key

1. alleged

2. diplomatic immunity

3. warrant

4. extradition

5. judicial review.


© Cambridge Legal English Academy 2020


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