|Dominic Raab, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs|
The Harry Dunn case has moved forward one step. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office rejected the family's claims of misue or abuse of power, as well as their request that the FCO withdraw its advise to the police regarding the American driver's diplomatic immunity.
From the BBC yesterday:
In the letter, the FCO said it would "seek costs" for any judicial review brought and argues the family has not found "any reasonably arguable ground of legal challenge".
It said the allegation that the foreign secretary had "misused and/or abused his power" was "entirely without foundation".
The family's lawyer/spokesman, normally so voluble, has so far maintained a near-total Twitter silence on this setback.
There are further details of the FCO's letter from the Press Association:
It is understood a legal claim issued by Harry’s family on October 25 was met with strong resistance from the FCO – who said any judicial review would be “opposed” and “defended”.
The 19-year-old’s parents had requested the FCO “withdraw the advice” provided to Northamptonshire Police surrounding the granting of diplomatic immunity to the US suspect in the case Anne Sacoolas.
The family’s lawyers also offered an alternative request of “paying substantive damages” for breaching the European Convention of Human Rights.
-- snip --
The claim against the FCO issued on behalf of Mr Dunn’s parents – Charlotte Charles and Tim Dunn – alleged the granting of diplomatic immunity to Mrs Sacoolas was “wrong in law”.
-- snip --
In the letter, the FCO wrote: “It is not accepted that the proposed claim for judicial review articulated on your clients’ behalf in your letter, dated October 25, identifies any reasonably arguable ground of legal challenge.
“It is not therefore accepted that you have identified any arguable basis on which to suggest that the FCO ought now either ‘to withdraw the advice provided to the police’, or to pay ‘substantive damages for the breach of Articles 2 and 6, ECHR’.
“The unparticularised allegation that the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (SSFCA) has misused and/or abused his power and/or has committed misfeasance in public office is entirely without foundation.”
The response continued: “As to the alternative ground of challenge based on Articles 2 and 6 ECHR, it is not accepted that you have identified any basis under the ECHR to criticise the SSFCA’s actions.
“The SSFCA therefore declines to take the action you have invited him to take on behalf of your clients, and would oppose any application for permission to bring a claim for judicial review.
“We therefore invite you not to pursue the proposed claim. In the event that the claim is issued, it will be defended, the application for permission will be opposed, and the Secretary of State will seek his costs for doing so.”
So the FCO is willing to be the bad guy in this touchy case, defending the legality of its ruling on diplomatic immunity for the driver. Not a popular position, I don't suppose, but the facts and the law on immunity are clear.
From this point on, the family's lawyer/spokesman might as well concentrate all his bad advise on pursuing his Plan B, that promised million-dollar payday in a U.S. court (“In the U.S. you can sue for millions of dollars if someone spills some hot coffee on your hand at McDonalds”). Of course, assuming he finds a U.S. judge willing to assert jurisdiction over traffic accidents in the UK, he'll then be fighting an insurance agency, and those people care not at all for public opinion and will make the FCO seem like a toothless bulldog in comparison.