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24 Nov 20 Back to Listing

Harry Dunn judicial review: Jason Beer QC appears for Northamptonshire Police

The Divisional Court (Flaux LJ and Saini J) today handed down judgment in R (Charles & Dunn) v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.

Harry Dunn was killed when his motorcycle collided with a car being driven on the wrong side of the road by Mrs Anne Sacoolas, the wife of a member of the Administrative and Technical staff of the US Embassy based at RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire. Northamptonshire Police investigated Mr Dunn's death. In the course of the investigation ​Northamptonshire Police received information that originated from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office ("the FCO") that Mrs Sacoolas enjoyed diplomatic immunity from the criminal jurisdiction of this country. Acting on that information, Northamptonshire Police did not interview Mrs Sacoolas, or charge her with any criminal offence arising from the collision, as to do so would have violated the immunity that she enjoyed.

Mr Dunn's parents challenged the determination of the FCO that Mrs Sacoolas enjoyed immunity. They also alleged that the FCO unlawfully confirmed and/or advised Northamptonshire Police that Mrs Sacoolas had immunity and/or obstructed its criminal investigation and in consequence breached Article 2 of the ECHR.​

Dismissing the claim for judicial review, the Divisional Court held that (i) Mrs Sacoolas did enjoy immunity at the relevant time from our criminal jurisdiction - in short, this was because of the operation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, and that the pre-waiver of her husband's immunity (in an exchange of correspondence between the UK and the US) did not affect the continuing existence and operation of her immunity, (ii) the FCO had not unlawfully advised Northamptonshire Police that Mrs Scaoolas had immunity - not only was its communication of that information in fact correct in law, any information information that it provided to the police service was not amenable to a claim to judicial review, and (iii) there had consequently been no breach of Aticle 2 of the ECHR.  The claim was therefore dismissed.

Jason Beer QC acted for the Chief Constable of Northamptonshire Police, instructed by Craig Sutherland of East Midlands Police Legal Services​.