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With permission, Mr Speaker, I want to update the House on the tragic case of the death of 19-year-old Harry Dunn in a car accident in Northamptonshire, and on what we in the Foreign Office and Her Majesty’s Government are doing to support his family in their search for justice.
As the father of two young boys, I can only begin to imagine the grief and suffering of losing a child. It is every family’s worst nightmare, and I am sure the whole House will join me in expressing our deepest sympathies to Harry’s family for their unbearable loss.
Let me start with the facts of this case and the steps that the Government have taken in recent weeks to support the police investigation. On
The UK Government had been notified of the American family’s arrival in the UK in July 2019, and this diplomatic immunity was the result of the arrangements agreed between the UK Government and the US Government back in 1995. Under those arrangements, US staff at RAF Croughton and their families were accepted as part of the US embassy in the UK. Pursuant to these arrangements, staff and their families were entitled to immunity under the Vienna convention on diplomatic relations. Under the exchange of notes in relation to the Croughton annexe, these arrangements waived immunity for employees, but the waiver did not cover spouses.
Let me return to the specific case of Harry Dunn. On
If the suspect’s immunity had been waived, Northamptonshire police would then have been able to compel her to co-operate fully with their investigation. However, on
When the FCO’s views were sought on timing, officials asked the police to delay telling Harry’s family by a day or two, so that they could inform me and other Ministers and agree the next course of action. I am aware that the police did not tell the family until
I turn to the issue of a waiver. I reassure the House that representations have been made to the US Government at every level of the Administration. The head of the diplomatic service summoned the US deputy ambassador. I have raised the case twice with the US ambassador in order to express my disappointment with the US embassy’s decision not to waive immunity, and to request that that decision be reversed. I spoke to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the same terms on
The scope of immunity is a complex area of law, because in some circumstances there may be residual immunity that can continue once an individual returns home, depending on their status and the particular facts of the case. Our position in this case is that immunity clearly ended when the individual concerned left the UK. The US Government in turn stated on
At every stage in this process, we have sought to clear away any obstacles to justice being done. At the same time, I have been mindful of the need to avoid anything that could be construed as political interference, in case that might later be argued to prejudice the proper and fair course of the investigation, and thereby prevent justice from being done.
Let me turn to our next steps. First, we will continue to do all that we can to support the police and the Crown Prosecution Service during this process, and I can reassure the House, as I assured Harry’s family when I met them on
In one night, a tragic accident took the life of a young man with his whole future ahead of him. That loss has devastated his family, as it would any of ours. I reassure the House that this Government will do everything we can to give them the solace of justice being done. Our hearts go out to them. I commend this statement to the House.