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Undiplomatic Immunity

PostPosted: October 7th, 2019, 11:11 am
by toucana
A serious row has broken out between Britain and the USA over an apparent abuse of diplomatic immunity after a woman who happens to be the wife of a US diplomat based in the UK fled the country after being involved in a fatal road accident.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-northamptonshire-49961679

The incident occurred just outside an RAF airbase in Northamptonshire UK on the 27 August. An American woman later identified as Anne Sacoolas 42 pulled out of the access road at RAF Croughton but drove along the wrong side of the main B4031 road for some 400 yards before colliding head-on with Harry Dunn 19 who was riding a motocycle along the correct side of the road. He suffered serious injuries and died shortly afterwards in hospital.

The American woman was interviewed by police and identified herself as the wife of a US diplomat based at RAF Croughton. She admitted driving on the wrong side of the road, and gave an assurance that she would not leave the country while a police investigation was in progress.

Police then discovered that efforts were being made to invoke diplomatic immunity on her behalf by US State department lawyers. Northamptonshire police were in the middle of filing an urgent request asking the US authorities to waive diplomatic immunity when they were informed that the woman and her husband had already left the country after being ‘recalled’ to the USA.

Under the terms of article 29 of the 1961 Vienna convention on diplomatic relations (VCDR), diplomats and their families normally have immunity from civil or criminal prosecution under the laws of a host country, although this immunity may be waived under the terms of article 32.

According to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), this immunity does not normally extend to dependents of consular officials based outside of London. It has come to light however that a ‘special arrangement’ exists in respect of US diplomatic staff based at RAF Croughton (which happens to be well outside London), and has done so since 1994.

RAF Croughton is no ordinary airbase. It was taken over by the US air force in the mid-1950s, and has become one the largest military switchboards and communications centres in the whole of Europe. It processes approximately a third of all US military communications in Europe and is one of the largest and most important American C&C spybases in Britain.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAF_Croughton

Re: Undiplomatic Immunity

PostPosted: October 7th, 2019, 12:19 pm
by TheVat
Among other things, this pinpoints again why most Americans should not ever attempt to drive while visiting the UK. A lifetime of left/right instincts developed in the right-side USA can betray you in a split-second. Personally, I found the mere act of crossing a street in the UK to be sometimes a harrowing experience, with cars in the nearer lane whizzing at me from the "wrong" direction. The woman's actions are reprehensible. She should return to the UK, enter a guilty plea, and accept whatever penalties are deemed fitting. Since she has, in that locality, disgraced my country, I would say go for the maximum sentence the law allows. At a philosophical level, I would question the overall merit of the concept of diplomatic immunity, anywhere - with the exception of extreme circumstances where a punishment would be cruel and unusual.

Re: Undiplomatic Immunity

PostPosted: October 7th, 2019, 12:51 pm
by charon
Personally, I found the mere act of crossing a street in the UK to be sometimes a harrowing experience


Heh heh :-)

Re: Undiplomatic Immunity

PostPosted: October 7th, 2019, 12:56 pm
by charon
Diplomatic immunity should not extend to crime. Her attempts (or her lawyers' attempts) to let her wriggle out of it were appalling.

Fact is, she ran away, which is the action of a coward. There's no excuse really. Nationality has nothing to do with it, it's a moral question. It would be the same if she came from Timbuktu.

But now she has to live with herself... best of luck, my dear.

Re: Undiplomatic Immunity

PostPosted: October 7th, 2019, 1:04 pm
by charon
'Established in large part by the Vienna conventions, diplomatic immunity is granted to individuals depending on their rank and the amount of immunity they need to carry out their duties without legal harassment. Diplomatic immunity allows foreign representatives to work in host countries without fully understanding all the customs of that country. However, diplomats are still expected to respect and follow the laws and regulations of their host countries; immunity is not a license to commit crimes.'

https://legal-dictionary.thefreediction ... c+immunity

Re: Undiplomatic Immunity

PostPosted: October 7th, 2019, 11:26 pm
by A_Seagull
charon » October 8th, 2019, 4:51 am wrote:
Personally, I found the mere act of crossing a street in the UK to be sometimes a harrowing experience


Heh heh :-)


Well you (TV) should try Thailand! Just ensure your pacemaker is set to overdrive.. :)

Re: Undiplomatic Immunity

PostPosted: October 7th, 2019, 11:30 pm
by A_Seagull
On a more serious note.. if people invoke diplomatic immunity then the responsibility for the incident/crime/whatever passes to their country.

The family involved should be able to sue the country (USA in this instance) for say $20,000,000, and the country (USA) should pay up.

It is not a perfect or ideal solution, but at least it would be a lot better than the mute fury and indignation on the part of the injured party as is presently the case.

Re: Undiplomatic Immunity

PostPosted: October 8th, 2019, 3:58 am
by Lomax
TheVat » October 7th, 2019, 5:19 pm wrote:At a philosophical level, I would question the overall merit of the concept of diplomatic immunity, anywhere - with the exception of extreme circumstances where a punishment would be cruel and unusual.

Can we have diplomacy without it? (There's always Skype, I suppose.)

Re: Undiplomatic Immunity

PostPosted: October 8th, 2019, 4:09 am
by toucana
The one that almost did for me was discovering that Californian drivers are allowed to drive through a red light, provided they are turning right at a junction.

It was my first morning in downtown San Diego. I was on foot at a 4-way junction in the Gaslight district waiting to cross over and go into a Starbucks. The pedestrian WALK light turned green, so I stepped out confidently, and was rewarded with a tremendous squeal of tyres and hissing of air-brakes. I looked over my left shoulder and saw a gigantic articulated logging truck that was towing a large chunk of a forest behind it towering over me. It was the sort of rig you normally see in British Columbia.

Technically I had the right-of-way, but even so…

I suspect that a number of hidden factors are at work in this case. The woman’s husband is in all likelihood an intelligence operative working at Croughton under diplomatic cover as a military attache. The first response of his own superiors might well have been to exfiltrate him immediately in order to protect military secrets. What then was his wife supposed to do ?

Re: Undiplomatic Immunity

PostPosted: October 8th, 2019, 10:20 am
by toucana
Breaking news in UK confirms that the woman's husband was not a registered diplomat on the official diplomatic list, and therefore was not entitled to immunity from prosecution under the terms of the Vienna Convention.

https://news.sky.com/story/husband-of-us-woman-granted-diplomatic-immunity-not-registered-diplomat-11830734

The husband's notional immunity arose from a separate bi-lateral agreement between UK and the USA that allows their spies to work in each other's' country without risk of being prosecuted for espionage offences.

Re: Undiplomatic Immunity

PostPosted: October 8th, 2019, 11:54 am
by TheVat
Lomax » October 8th, 2019, 12:58 am wrote:
TheVat » October 7th, 2019, 5:19 pm wrote:At a philosophical level, I would question the overall merit of the concept of diplomatic immunity, anywhere - with the exception of extreme circumstances where a punishment would be cruel and unusual.

Can we have diplomacy without it? (There's always Skype, I suppose.)


Probably be harder in countries where a culture is quite different, especially with highly specific and restrictive codes on dress and demeanor. Even with good intentions to have all consular officials learn the language and customs, there will be gaps of knowledge. Maybe a better question is: does immunity encourage laxness with regards to cultural training? E.g. if you and your supervisory officer knew you'd be horsewhipped for leaving your house without a hat, it's more likely you'd wear one. And more likely you, and family members, would have been made to attend a workshop on local dress.

Re: Undiplomatic Immunity

PostPosted: October 8th, 2019, 6:15 pm
by charon
A_Seagull » October 8th, 2019, 4:30 am wrote:On a more serious note.. if people invoke diplomatic immunity then the responsibility for the incident/crime/whatever passes to their country.

The family involved should be able to sue the country (USA in this instance) for say $20,000,000, and the country (USA) should pay up.

It is not a perfect or ideal solution, but at least it would be a lot better than the mute fury and indignation on the part of the injured party as is presently the case.


I've read about this suing idea elsewhere. I can only say, if I were the victim's parents, the very last thing that would enter my head would be getting money in lieu of my son's life, In fact, it's an appalling idea.

Re: Undiplomatic Immunity

PostPosted: October 9th, 2019, 3:35 pm
by A_Seagull
charon » October 9th, 2019, 10:15 am wrote:
A_Seagull » October 8th, 2019, 4:30 am wrote:On a more serious note.. if people invoke diplomatic immunity then the responsibility for the incident/crime/whatever passes to their country.

The family involved should be able to sue the country (USA in this instance) for say $20,000,000, and the country (USA) should pay up.

It is not a perfect or ideal solution, but at least it would be a lot better than the mute fury and indignation on the part of the injured party as is presently the case.


I've read about this suing idea elsewhere. I can only say, if I were the victim's parents, the very last thing that would enter my head would be getting money in lieu of my son's life, In fact, it's an appalling idea.


It is the way things used to be done... before there were judges and courts.

Re: Undiplomatic Immunity

PostPosted: October 9th, 2019, 6:32 pm
by charon
Doesn't make it right.

Re: Undiplomatic Immunity

PostPosted: October 9th, 2019, 9:17 pm
by A_Seagull
charon » October 10th, 2019, 10:32 am wrote:Doesn't make it right.


Depends what you mean by 'right'.