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British court says U.S. diplomat's wife shielded from charges in biker's death

The family of Harry Dunn leave the Foreign Office in London after a meeting with British foreign secretary Dominic Raab on October 9. File Photo by Andy Rain/EPA-EFE
The family of Harry Dunn leave the Foreign Office in London after a meeting with British foreign secretary Dominic Raab on October 9. File Photo by Andy Rain/EPA-EFE

Nov. 24 (UPI) -- A British court ruled Tuesday that the wife of a U.S. intelligence officer was protected by diplomatic immunity when she was involved in a crash last year that killed a 19-year-old motorcyclist, dealing a legal setback to the man's family.

The ruling dashed one of the last remaining legal challenges for the family of Harry Dunn, which has demanded that the woman, Anne Sacoolas, be extradited from the United States to face a British court and charges relating to Dunn's death.

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Authorities say Sacoolas was driving on the wrong side of the road on Aug. 27, 2019, when she struck Dunn, who was riding on a motorbike.

Her husband, Jonathan Sacoolas, was working in Britain as a U.S. government administrator at the Royal Air Force base in Croughton. The Sacoolases returned to the United States less than three weeks after the deadly collision.

The High Court agreed with an argument by the U.S. Embassy in London that Sacoolas had full diplomatic immunity. The ruling Tuesday said British government officials acted in "good faith" in allowing Sacoolas to leave the country and didn't obstruct a police investigation.

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"On the contrary, [the Foreign and Commonwealth Office] sought to assist rather than obstruct [police] in their investigation, including by seeking a waiver of Mrs. Sacoolas' diplomatic immunity and objecting in strong terms when the U.S. stated its intention to withdraw her from [Britain]," the ruling states.

The U.S. government has refused to comply with a British extradition warrant for Sacoolas on the charge of causing death by dangerous driving.

The judges, however, issued their ruling Tuesday with mixed feelings.

"We do not come to this conclusion with any enthusiasm for the result, but it is compelled by the operation of the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations."

Dunn's parents have also filed a wrongful death suit in Virginia, where Sacoolas lives.

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