Harry Dunn crash: Mum appeals for US suspect's return

Harry Dunn crash: Mum appeals for US suspect's return

  • 5 October 2019
Image copyright Charlotte Charles
Image caption Harry Dunn pictured with his mother Charlotte Charles

The mother of a teenager killed in a car crash has appealed "as a mum" for a suspect to return to the UK to face questioning by the police.

Harry Dunn, 19, of Charlton, Banbury, was killed when his motorbike crashed with a car near RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire on 27 August.

The wife of a US diplomat left the country after she was made a suspect.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said he had expressed his "disappointment" to the US ambassador about her departure.

The US State Department said it "carefully" considered questions about diplomatic immunity and rarely decided to waive the protection.

Mrs Charles says she was "utterly devastated" the woman has left the country, and was willing to travel to the US to seek her return.

Image copyright Family photo
Image caption The teenager died in hospital after his motorbike crashed with a Volvo

Mrs Charles told the BBC's PM programme: "Harry's stepdad, my husband, is a US citizen. A couple of weeks or more after we'd lost Harry we let the police know that Bruce, my husband, was a US citizen, in the hope that that would help matters.

"We're really hoping to try to get her back; from me, as a mum, to her, as a mum, you just hope that he [Mr Raab] can try to get through to her.

"We don't wish her any ill harm, but we don't understand how she can just get on a plane and leave our family just utterly devastated.

"If we don't get any luck over here, then we will go over there."

  • Should diplomats still have immunity?

RAF Croughton is a United States Air Force communications station.

Under the 1961 Vienna Convention, diplomats and their family members are immune from prosecution in their host country, so long as they are not nationals of that country.

However, their immunity can be waived by the state that has sent them - in this case, the US.

Analysis by BBC diplomatic correspondent James Landale

There are more than 22,500 people in the UK who hold diplomatic immunity and most do not break the law.

But if a diplomat is guilty of an egregious breach, there are some things that a host country can do.

In a written Parliamentary answer in October 2017, then Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said: "The FCO does not tolerate foreign diplomats breaking the law.

"When instances of alleged criminal conduct are brought to our attention by the police, we ask the relevant foreign government to waive diplomatic immunity where appropriate.

"For the most serious offences, and when a relevant waiver has not been granted, we seek the immediate withdrawal of the diplomat."

The problem here is that the US do not appear to have granted a waiver for this particular diplomatic spouse.

Instead, they have removed her from the UK before the British government could threaten to remove her itself if she did not submit to questioning.

As such, the US appears to have calculated that protecting the woman from identification, questioning and possible prosecution was more important than the potential risk to UK-US relations.

This is further evidence the adjective "special" should rarely be used to describe the alliance between both countries.

Supt Sarah Johnson said: "Northamptonshire Police followed all of its usual procedures following the incident, including liaising closely with the suspect, who engaged fully with us at the time and had previously confirmed to us that she had no plans to leave the country in the near future.

"The force is now exploring all opportunities through diplomatic channels to ensure that the investigation continues to progress.

"Harry Dunn's family deserve justice and in order to achieve this, a full and thorough investigation, with the assistance of all parties involved, needs to take place."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The crash happened on the B4031 near RAF Croughton, Northamptonshire

Mr Raab said: "I have called the US ambassador to express the UK's disappointment with their decision, and to urge the embassy to reconsider it."

The US Embassy in London confirmed the diplomat's family had left the UK, but it could not confirm the identity of the people involved in the incident "due to security and privacy considerations".

The US State Department said: "Any questions regarding a waiver of immunity with regard to our diplomats and their family members overseas in a case like this receive intense attention at senior levels and are considered carefully given the global impact such decisions carry; immunity is rarely waived.

"We cannot speculate on what actions the British Government may take. While we are in close consultation with the appropriate British officials, we cannot comment on private diplomatic conversation with the British government.