August 27th, 2019, is the day that a young person's life was taken away, and the English legal system could do nothing about it. Harry Dunn was a 19-year-old male who was tragically killed by Anna Saccolos, a wife of a US diplomat; and although it has been three years since the incident, nothing has been done. On that day, a boy's life was taken away, and the person who killed him fled the country but had every legal right to do so. Diplomatic immunity – an unfair but very legal right.
What is diplomatic immunity?
Diplomatic immunity is the mutually agreed upon legal protection of diplomats(and their families) from legal threats in their residing country. This immunity aims to avoid the arbitrary force of law, protect innocents and avoid international quarry. However, the diplomatic immunity awarded to Anna Saccolos has been heavily questioned; this was supported by the finding of her husband’s employment being a US intelligence agency. Some views on the case have even claimed that the immunity was an 'anomaly' and should not have been awarded in the first place.
On August 27th, 2019, Harry Dunn was driving his motorcycle, while Anna Saccolos was driving from RAF Croughton(a US intelligence base) in the UK. However, the problem was that Saccolos was driving almost 400 metres on the wrong side of the road. Not only did she fail to abide by the UK Highway code, but the consequence was the death of a young boy. The Crown Prosecution Service tried to investigate and press charges. A waiver asking for Anna Saccolos to be regarded as a suspect being sent to the US, was rejected, and she quickly fled the country. The victim's family pleaded for a talk with her and (at the time) President Trump to do something; nonetheless, nothing was done.
Three years later
Three years have passed, and some progress has been made, but it was insufficient. Anna Sacoloos's hearing has not occurred, no sentence has been given, and no compensation has been made to the family, even in the US courts. The Dunn family attended a meeting with President Trump in 2019, with no result. In December of the same year, the CPS and the police charged Saccolos with ‘death caused by dangerous driving’. However, an extradition request sent to the US was denied. Consequently, a court hearing in the Virginia Court occured in 2021 due to a civil claim for damages by the Dunn family against Saccolos; but, once again, no result was achieved. In 2022, it was stated that Anna Saccolos would attend a hearing in the Magistrates' Court, for ambiguous charges, on January 18th, but it was postponed.
Here we are now, the hearing date finally defined as September 29th of 2022, more than three years after the tragic death of Harry Dunn. It has not been explained whether Saccolos herself would attend the trial or any other specific details. The outcome of the trial is very unpredictable, however it should not be. It is the legal, logical outcome for a person charged with causing death by dangerous driving to receive a form of punishment. To uphold public safety and deterrence of crime. Nonetheless, it has been a whole three years, and it is not ensured that justice for Harry will be achieved. Shockingly, a legal system that is supposed to protect its citizens is unsuccessful at completing its core duty. Was this prolonged avoidance of justice the fault of the English and Welsh system, the lack of transparency, or something completely unrelated?
BBC News. 2020. Harry Dunn: How the death of a teen became a transatlantic row. [online] Available at: <https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-northamptonshire-53505684>.
Carr, J., 2019. US diplomat's wife, 42, who 'ran over and killed' British teen named. [online] Mail Online. Available at: <https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7544167/US-diplomats-wife-42-ran-killed-British-teen-named.html>.
Cooper, P., 2022. Harry Dunn: Family's bid for answers three years on from crash death. [online] BBC News. Available at: <https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-northamptonshire-62674779>.
Whiteside, P., 2019. What is diplomatic immunity and how does it work?. [online] Sky News. Available at: <https://news.sky.com/story/what-is-diplomatic-immunity-11829013> .