U.K. changes rules for diplomatic immunity after teen dies near U.S. base

National News

U.K. (NBC) (07/23/20)— Britain will no longer offer immunity from criminal prosecution to the families of the American staff at a military base near where a teenager was killed by a car driven by the wife of an American diplomat.

The change, announced by Foreign Minister Dominic Raab on Wednesday, comes after intense lobbying by the family of Harry Dunn, age 19, who died in August 2019 after his motorcycle was struck by Anne Sacoolas, an American, near the base at Croughton Annex, a British installation used by the United States.

Image: Harry Dunn
Harry Dunn

The United Kingdom’s decision comes a day after Dunn’s death was raised in a meeting between Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has previously called for Sacoolas to return to the country, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who was making a brief trip to London.

“The U.S. waiver of immunity from criminal jurisdiction is now expressly extended to the family members of U.S. staff at the Croughton Annex,” Raab said in a statement. “Permitting the criminal prosecution of the family members of those staff, should these tragic circumstances ever arise again.”

Raab said the changes took effect Monday, implying they would not be retroactive.

Dunn’s mother, Charlotte Charles, welcomed the decision as a “huge step forward” and said it would ensure a similar tragedy would “never happen to another family,” she told Britain’s PA News Agency.

She said her son would be “proud” but vowed to continue to campaign for Sacoolas to return to the U.K.

The case sparked a transatlantic dispute between Washington and London about whether Sacoolas had diplomatic immunity from prosecution.

Dunn’s parents have called for Sacoolas to return to the U.K. to face trial after she was charged in December with causing death by dangerous driving.

Her lawyer has said previously that Sacoolas will not return voluntarily to potentially face jail for “a terrible but unintentional accident.”

The State Department also said Sacoolas was covered by diplomatic immunity and could not be extradited, in a move that caused friction with London.

NBC News has yet to receive comment from the State Department on the latest U.K. rule change.

In October, Dunn’s family met with President Donald Trump at the White House to petition him to extradite Sacoolas.

During the meeting, Trump dropped a “bombshell” according to Dunn’s mother, revealing that Sacoolas was waiting to meet the family in the room next door. The family declined to meet her.

“We have the deepest sympathy for Harry Dunn’s family. No family should have to experience what they have gone through and I recognize that these changes will not bring Harry back,” Raab said.

He said he hoped the change in rules would at least bring “some small measure of comfort” to the Dunn family.

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