Harry Dunn’s family lose battle to see documents on ‘secret agreement’ with US
The parents of Harry Dunn have lost a High Court battle to see evidence of a ‘secret agreement’ with the US believed to have given diplomatic immunity to their son’s alleged killer.
Charlotte Charles and Tim Dunn are bringing legal action against Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and Northamptonshire Police, claiming they acted unlawfully over the departure of American Anne Sacoolas from the UK.
Their son was 19 years old when he was killed in August last year when his motorbike collided with a Volvo driving on the wrong side of the road outside RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire.
Sacoolas, whose husband Jonathan worked as a technical assistant at the base, claimed diplomatic immunity following the crash and was able to return to the US. She was charged with causing death by dangerous driving in December but an extradition request was refused by the US the following month.
Mr Dunn’s parents argue that the Foreign Office ‘acted unlawfully’ by proceeding as if Sacoolas, 42, conclusively had immunity.
They say this prevented Northamptonshire Police ‘from reaching an informed view on the issue and their lawyer has claimed authorities ‘obstructed a criminal investigation, under pressure from the United States’.
Representing the family Geoffrey Robertson QC, earlier said the Foreign Office has ‘through its actions obstructed a criminal investigation, under pressure from the United States’.
He argued Mr Sacoolas had ‘only limited’ immunity from prosecution in relation to ‘acts performed in the course of his duties’, and that his wife entered the UK with ‘none at all since she would perform no duties relating to the mission’.
Mr Robertson said the case ‘turns on the interpretation of a secret agreement made in 1995, and updated in 2001’ which resulted from a ‘US request to add up to 200 technical officers as diplomatic agents at RAF Croughton’.
He said that the UK was at first ‘deeply concerned about this unprecedented request and the danger of media interest if crimes (in particular, road traffic-related crimes) were committed by agents and/or their dependants’.
Mr Robertson asked the court to order the Foreign Office to disclose historical documents about the 1995 agreement, as well as notes of all phone calls and other messages about Mr Dunn’s death involving the department’s officials.
In his opening remarks at today’s preliminary hearing, he said there had been a number of ‘inaccurate reports’ in the media that the court would be asked to determine the diplomatic immunity.
Representing the Foreign Office, Sir James Eadie QC said Raab ‘has acted lawfully at all times’.
He argued the department ‘has already given extensive disclosure, well in excess of what is strictly required’ and the claimants’ request for further material should be refused.
Sir James also rejected the ‘serious allegation’ that the Government had failed to disclose relevant documents to Mr Dunn’s parents.
He said: ‘There is no basis whatever for the repeated assertion, both in these proceedings and the media, that the Secretary of State has failed in any way to comply with his duty of candour.’
Rejecting the parent’s application for further evidence, Lord Justice Flaux said: ‘We do not consider that any of the documents sought is necessary for the fair and just determination of the issues in the case, so that application is refused.’
The court also refused an application to rely on expert evidence from Sir Ivor Roberts, described as ‘one of the country’s most distinguished diplomats’.
Lord Justice Flaux said: ‘Whilst we, of course, acknowledge his eminence, we do not consider any of that evidence to be admissible or relevant to the issues we have to decide.’
The court said a full hearing of Mrs Charles and Mr Dunn’s case will be heard in October or November.
Earlier this week the pair said they were left ‘angry’ after a letter from Boris Johnson arrived just two days before their High Court appearance.
Mrs Charles called the letters a ‘cut and paste’ response and said she is ‘bitterly disappointed’ the Prime Minister has not met with the family.
Ahead of today’s hearing the parents released a statement saying: ‘We couldn’t believe when Anne Sacoolas was allowed to leave the UK and still can’t believe it now.
‘We know the American government are responsible for that. You do not get to kill someone and walk away.
‘However, it is clear to us that things went badly wrong in London too and that the UK Government allowed her to leave unlawfully.’