What have we learned from disclosed court documents in the Harry Dunn case?

By Josh Payne and Sam Tobin, PA
·3-min read

Since the beginning of legal proceedings in the Harry Dunn case, court documents have revealed a number of details.

Here are some of the significant developments since the 19-year-old’s parents launched their judicial review proceedings against the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).

– Harry Dunn case “prophesied”

A Foreign Office official raised concerns over the potential for a car crash involving a diplomatic immunity claim 25 years before the death of Harry Dunn.

Harry Dunn
Harry Dunn died in a collision outside RAF Croughton, Northamptonshire, on August 27 last year (Family Handout/PA)

A briefing note sent to Sir Tony Baldry, then a junior FCDO minister, in May 1995 showed he had raised concerns that “an accident involving the claim of immunity could make the local if not national headlines”.

– Text message allows suspect to leave the UK

Court documents showed that a senior diplomat at the FCDO had sent a text message to their US Embassy counterpart saying they should “feel able” to put suspect Anne Sacoolas on the next flight home – the day before the Sacoolas family left the UK.

The text message read: “I think that now the decision has been taken not to waive, there’s not much mileage in us asking you to keep the family here. It’s obviously not us approving of their departure but I think you should feel able to put them on the next flight out.”

– “Very unpalatable headlines”

Disclosed documents also showed a briefing note copied to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab’s private secretary from three days after the fatal crash revealed concern for some “very unpalatable headlines”.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The FCDO told the Dunn family that Mr Raab was personally made aware of the case only after Sacoolas’s departure on September 15, 19 days after the fatal road crash.

– Informing the Dunn family about the refusal of a waiver

A witness statement from the senior investigating officer at Northamptonshire Police said an official at the FCDO had requested that the force delay telling the family that a waiver for Sacoolas’s diplomatic immunity had been declined by the US, adding that it would help if they could get their “ducks in a row” beforehand.

Detective Inspector Louise Hemmingway said in her statement that the FCDO had requested the delay while they “gain(ed) agreement on next steps” after the waiver was refused.

– Government “would not have agreed” to immunity for dependents

Harry Dunn's mother Charlotte Charles
Harry Dunn’s mother Charlotte Charles holds a photograph of her son aged 14 (Family Handout/PA)

Sir Tony, who agreed with the US’s request in 1995 for administrative and technical staff to have diplomatic immunity, said he could not “imagine any government agreeing” to allowing dependents to have greater immunity than the staff.

He said in a witness statement that he believed FCDO lawyers at the time would not have “created a situation whereby immunity was waived for agents outside work, but not for their spouses”.

– Lack of “political leverage”

Documents also showed that a representative of the Crown Prosecution Service expressed their doubts to the FCDO and police that the UK had the “political leverage” to persuade the US into a “change of heart”.

The email from September 20 added: “It is difficult to see what further steps could be taken. I do not know whether there are lines of ‘appeal’ open to the FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office).”