14 December 2020 by

R (on the application of Charlotte Charles and Tim Dunn) v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs & Chief Constable of Northamptonshire Police [2020] EWHC 3185 (Admin)

At a “rolled up” listening to on each permission and substantive deserves, a problem was thought of by the Excessive Court docket to the choice of the Overseas and Commonwealth Workplace’s (“FCO”) that Anne Sacoolas, the spouse of a member of the US Authorities’s Technical and Administrative employees stationed at RAF Croughton, was entitled to diplomatic immunity from prosecution.

The problem to this choice was dismissed on all grounds. Nevertheless, permission to enchantment to the Court docket of Enchantment has been granted.


The Claimants, Charlotte Charles and Tim Dunn, are the mother and father of Harry Dunn. On 27 August 2019, Harry Dunn was killed following a collision between his bike and a car pushed by Mrs Sacoolas.

Mrs Sacoolas was the spouse of Jonathan Sacoolas, a member of the US Authorities’s Administrative and Technical (“A&T”) employees at RAF Croughton. The FCO decided that Mrs Sacoolas was entitled to immunity from felony proceedings and sought a waiver of immunity, however on 13 September 2019, this was declined by the US authorities. On 15 September 2019, Mrs Sacoolas left England and returned to the US.

On 24 September 2019, the FCO requested the US to rethink the waiver of immunity and on 22 December 2019 the CPS started extradition proceedings towards Mrs Sacoolas for demise by harmful driving. An extradition request was submitted by the House Workplace on 10 January 2020, however this was declined by the US State Division.

The Claimants challenged the FCO’s willpower that, on the time of Harry Dunn’s demise, Mrs Sacoolas loved diplomatic immunity and the FCO’s affirmation and/or recommendation to the related police drive that Mrs Sacoolas had immunity from felony jurisdiction.


The legal guidelines of immunity are central to this choice. The Vienna Conference on Diplomatic Relations (“VCDR”) has been in drive since 24 April 1964. 192 States are celebration to the conference.

The VCDR has been carried out partly by the Diplomatic Privileges Act 1964, s.2(1).

Article 29 of the VCDR offers that: “The particular person of a diplomatic agent shall be inviolable. He shall not be liable to any type of arrest or detention”. Article 31 of the VCDR state: “A diplomatic agent shall get pleasure from immunity from the felony jurisdiction of the receiving State […] A diplomatic agent shouldn’t be obliged to provide proof as a witness”.

Article 32 of the VCDR states that an immunity from jurisdiction of diplomatic brokers and of individuals having fun with immunity underneath Article 37 could also be waived by the sending State. Any such waiver should all the time be specific.

Article 37(2) offers:

Members of the executive and technical employees of the mission, along with members of their households forming a part of their respective households, shall, if they don’t seem to be nationals of or completely resident within the receiving State, benefit from the privileges and immunities laid out in articles 29 to 35, besides that the immunity from civil and administrative jurisdiction of the receiving State laid out in paragraph 1 of article 31 shall not lengthen to acts carried out exterior the course of their duties. They shall additionally benefit from the privileges laid out in article 36, paragraph 1, in respect of articles imported on the time of first set up.

The entitlement to privileges and immunities of members of a mission arises from the automated operation of the VCDR, given home impact by the 1964 Act. A&T employees get pleasure from inviolability and immunity from felony jurisdiction each as a matter of worldwide regulation, by operation of Articles 29, 31(2), and 37(2) VCDR and as a matter of home regulation by operation of s.2(1) of the 1964 Act.

Article 37 VCDR confers separate entitlements to immunity to the relations of a diplomatic agent or member of A&T employees.

Importantly in respect of this case, in 1995 the US Authorities agreed to waive immunity from felony jurisdiction in respect of acts carried out exterior the course of the duties of employees at Croughton who’ve solely A&T standing. This was an specific advance waiver of immunity. It was accomplished by the use of an Alternate of Notes on 15 August 1995.

To summarise:

  1. There was an specific waiver of immunity from UK felony jurisdiction of staff and employees members within the A&T class at RAF Croughton;
  2. There was no reference to the place of relations of A&T employees; and
  3. The discussions happened as regards to the VCDR.

The Judgment

Floor 1: Immunity

The principle concern was whether or not Mrs Sacoolas loved immunity from felony jurisdiction. The Claimants submitted that she loved no immunity as a result of she couldn’t have higher immunity than her husband, whose immunity in relation to felony jurisdiction had been waived by the Alternate of Notes.

The Court docket (Flaux LJ and Sayani J) concluded that the difficulty should be approached within the context of the VCDR. The VCDR was the framework for the Alternate of Notes. The privileges and immunities afforded to the Mr and Mrs Sacoolas derived from the VCDR and 1964 Act. The immunities had been loved in full, topic to any legitimate waiver. The one legitimate waiver was discovered within the Alternate of Notes, which utilized solely to Mr Sacoolas’s immunity from felony jurisdiction. In regard to Mrs Sacoolas, there was no waiver. Subsequently, Mrs Sacoolas loved full immunity:

In conclusion, we take into account that to ensure that there to have been a waiver of Mrs Sacoolas’ immunity (an entitlement she had on arrival), the equipment of Article 32 of the VCDR needed to be employed, and that required an specific advance or later waiver. It is not uncommon floor that there was no such waiver [113].

Floor 2: Illegal Recommendation/Obstruction

It was additionally the Claimants’ case that it was illegal for the FCO to “hinder a felony investigation” by Northamptonshire Police (“NP”) and/or to verify to and/or advise NP that Mrs Sacoolas and her husband had diplomatic immunity. Alternatively, it was an “abuse of energy” for the FCO to have accomplished something apart from inform the US that if its assertion of immunity was maintained that must be examined within the Courts.

However the Court docket famous that if Floor 1 failed, Floor 2 would essentially fail: if Mrs Sacoolas loved immunity in regulation, there can’t be illegal recommendation/obstruction by the FCO.

NP agreed with the FCO’s conclusion that Mrs Sacoolas loved diplomatic immunity: “There isn’t any motive to assume NP would have concluded in any other case had the FCO not acted in the way in which that the Claimants contend to be illegal” [124]. In any case, as Mrs Sacoolas loved inviolability underneath Article 29 of the VCDR, NP couldn’t have lawfully arrested her.

Furthermore, it was additionally discovered that, on the proof, the FCO didn’t advise NP as to the authorized place in relation to Mrs Sacoolas’s immunity. It was for NP to resolve what steps to absorb the felony investigation. The FCO did nothing to stop that [128].

Additional, the Claimants’ arguments that there had been a failure to reveal the Alternate of Notes to NP and to advise NP that FCO’s preliminary evaluation had been that Mrs Sacoolas didn’t have immunity and the FCO’s final choice to simply accept the US assertion of immunity was rejected, with the Court docket discovering that this didn’t elevate an debatable declare of unlawfulness in public regulation. Because the FCO shouldn’t be underneath a authorized obligation to offer paperwork to the police, not doing so didn’t give rise to unlawfulness.

Floor 3: Article 2 ECHR

Below article 2 ECHR, the State has an obligation to investigate deaths. Nevertheless, the VCDR inhibits an Article 2 ECHR investigation, as diplomats and their relations get pleasure from inviolability, pursuant to Article 29 VCDR and “shall not be liable to any type of arrest or detention”.

The Court docket concluded that:

Briefly, Article 2 has to accommodate the VCDR and a grievance that this treaty obstructs an efficient investigation shouldn’t be tenable as a matter of both home regulation or Strasbourg jurisprudence [141].

This Floor was dismissed accordingly.


The principle argument on this case involved whether or not Mrs Sacoolas’s loved immunity. Grounds 2 and three had been depending on Floor 1.

The choice of Lord Justice Flaux and Mr Justice Saini reads the VCDR in gentle of its abnormal that means, in accordance with established jurisprudence and Article 31 of the Vienna Conference on the Legislation of Treaties.

The place to begin on this case is that Mr Sacoolas and Mrs Sacoolas loved immunity underneath the VCDR as quickly as they landed within the UK. The second step is that Mr Sacoolas’s immunity was curtailed by an specific waiver within the type of the Alternate of Notes. No such specific waiver exists for Mrs Sacoolas.

To counsel that Mrs Sacoolas’s immunity should even be curtailed would place the waiver previous to the entitlement of immunity. The entitlement to immunity underneath the VCDR should come first and, within the occasion that it’s not curtailed, should proceed.

As such, it should be the case that she nonetheless enjoys her immunity underneath the VCDR. To counsel in any other case can be placing the cart earlier than the horse.

The Court docket of Enchantment will take into account these points in the end.

Anogika Souresh is a barrister at 1 Crown Workplace Row. She was instructed by the Authorities Authorized Division to undertake doc work in preparation for this case, however this text is a abstract of the publicly-available judgment.