What is Diplomatic Immunity?
The somewhat arcane topic of Diplomatic Immunity has hit the news headlines following the tragic death of 19-year-old Harry Dunn. Harry died as a result of a road traffic collision outside RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire. CCTV apparently showed the other vehicle involved driving on the wrong side of the road.
The wife of an American diplomat has returned to the United States and it appears that she will not face a further criminal investigation in the UK, after asserting a claim for diplomatic Immunity.
Despite a plea by the Foreign Secretary for Immunity to be waived, so far, the US Government has refused. However, her entitlement to Diplomatic Immunity has been questioned. It now appears that she may not have been entitled to immunity.
If that turns out to be the case, then the UK authorities may seek her extradition from the United States.
What is Diplomatic Immunity?
Diplomatic Immunity, and like procedures, is a protection afforded to foreign diplomats, consular officers, Heads of State (and other leaders) and often their families.
At any given time, over 20,000 people in the UK have a claim to Immunity.
Diplomatic Immunity can protect the individual from civil and in some cases, criminal liability. The rules are very complex, and protections may vary.
Article 29 of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations states:
“The person of a diplomatic agent shall be inviolable. He shall not be liable to any form of arrest or detention. The receiving State shall treat him with due respect and shall take all appropriate steps to prevent any attack on his person, freedom or dignity.”
Why Is It Offered?
Diplomatic Immunity is designed to protect the sovereignty of foreign governments when conducting official business abroad. It acts to protect individuals against a legal process which may be malign or otherwise unfair.
Its origins are rooted in many international treaties and enshrined in UK law via Section 2 of the Diplomatic Privileges Act 1964.
Can Immunity be Waived?
Diplomatic Immunity can be waived by the State but not the person themselves. This means that unless the US Government has a change of heart, that is the end of the matter so far as UK criminal proceedings are concerned.
Where the matter involves an alleged commission of a serious criminal offence, the UK Government will in some instances expel that person from the UK and refuse them future entry.
How we can assist
If you need specialist advice in relation to any criminal investigation or prosecution, from the initial investigation through to court proceedings, please get in touch. Call John Howey on 020 7388 1658 or email email@example.com. Let us help.
Please note that the information contained in this article was correct at the time of writing. There may have been updates to the law since the article was written, which may affect the information and advice given therein.