The tragic story of Ryan Dunn is currently dominating the news cycle and has been described as the most serious immunity dispute between the UK and the US in modern times.

What is Diplomatic Immunity?


William Bergstrom
William Bergstrom
Partner - Acting Head of Extradition Division

Diplomatic immunity is a form of legal protection that grants certain privileges and immunities to protected agents and their families, resulting in their immunity from criminal or civil prosecution under the laws of the countries hosting them. The aim of this reciprocal arrangement between countries is to ensure that diplomats may effectively carry out their duties and are given safe passage.

Modern diplomatic immunity was codified as international law in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961, ratified by the immense majority of nations and implemented in England & Wales by the Diplomatic Privileges Act 1964.

Under Article 41 of the Vienna Convention, diplomats are expected to respect the laws and regulations of the receiving state and therefore compromise their careers upon violating the spirit of the Vienna Convention with misconduct or criminal behaviour, that occasionally results in prosecution. 

Under Article 32 of the Convention, diplomatic immunity can be expressly  waived only by the government of the diplomat’s home country.

Historically, many states have negatively reacted to waiver requests by host countries and such waiver seems to have taken place only when the diplomat has committed a crime not related to their diplomatic role and so serious that prosecution has been in the public interest. For example, in 2002, a Colombian security officer faced trial for murder of a man in London, after his diplomatic immunity was lifted by his government.

In the case of Anne Sacoolas, the pressure on the U.K. government to initiate formal extradition proceedings may become considerably high.

Media campaigns resulting in the involvement of political figures have shown to be very effective in the extradition context between the UK and the US – the Gary McKinnon case being a recent example of a successful challenge to extradition and the power of the UK media.  It remains to be seen whether this will be equally effective in bringing Anne Sacoolas to justice.

We Can Help

At MW Solicitors our mission is "To make quality legal services accessible to everyone" including those who are being threatened with Extradition. we recognise that being the subject of an extradition request can be incredibly traumatic for clients and their families.  It is therefore essential to have expert representation from the outset.  Our specialist Extradition Solicitors are expert in fighting any type of extradition based on technical, procedural and, in particular, human rights grounds.  No matter which country is attempting to extradite you, your best chance lies with a specialist team in your corner.

You can rest assured that you will receive specialist advice and representation of the very highest quality.  Call us today on 020 3551 8500 or use our Contact Us form to arrange a callback at your convenience

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