I have Fandango to thank for this title – he has been posting regularly on this subject from his west-coast-USA vantage point. I am interested in current affairs too, and normally have some nonsense or other to spout about one of the UK’s topical news stories. So, I like to join in. Maybe there’s something in your world that you’d like to post about?
I must admit I don’t really have a stand-out winner this week, but I thought I’d mention a story that has rumbled on in the UK for a few months now, and let you decide who the winner is.
The venue is RAF Croughton, in Northamptonshire. About 100 miles due north of London. The base is a US listening post, and stationed there was a guy called Jonathan Sacoolas. He is an American serviceman. On 27th August last, 19yo Harry Dunn was knocked off his motorcycle outside the base, and was tragically killed.
Dunn was killed by a car allegedly driving the wrong way down the highway, driven by Sacoolas’s wife, Anne. Anne Sacoolas is also American, and for the duration of their posting, the pair had diplomatic immunity in the UK.
I guess Anne Sacoolas panicked, and she hightailed it back to the USA the very next day.
A police investigation followed. The laws here seem to be quite reasonable. They range from one extreme, where the incident is treated as a tragic accident, and nothing further is done, to the driver being charged and facing prison time – if it goes that way, the death can be treated as seriously as murder.
The police investigation found that Dunn had been hit by a car driving the wrong way, and that the car had been driven by Mrs Sacoolas. In fact, the local police thought that the weight of evidence was so great that they issued a warrant for her arrest.
But there was the problem, because Mrs Sacoolas was no longer around. So the warrant for her arrest became a warrant for her extradition. As you can imagine, the case has to’d and fro’d these last few months. Dunn’s parents even flew out to meet with Donald Trump in the White House.
Now, I don’t fully understand the ins and outs of Diplomatic Immunity, but it appears that in Mrs Sacoolas’s case, it is worthless. She could still be charged with the crime. As things stand currently, a request for her extradition has been sent to the US.
In amongst all these events, there is the bluster. Dunn’s father, Tim, tried to hijack an appearance by the UK Foreign Secretary, during the recent election campaign. (Dunn said he was frustrated at not being granted an audience with the Foreign Secretary under normal circumstances.) On Monday of this week, he appeared on TV, saying he was very confident that Mrs Sacoolas would be extradited. He pointed out that even if the request were stonewalled by the current administration, then the warrant had no expiry, so possibly the next administration would see things more favourably. I thought that point was a very good one.
However, on Tuesday (the next day), Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, appeared in a lengthy interview on breakfast TV. The interviewer could not resist asking about Harry Dunn.
I have got to give Johnson credit where it is due, for his honesty. He said that he thought that there was next to no chance of obtaining an extradition. Which is probably absolutely right.
I can imagine that this case has severely rattled our government. But at the end of the arguments, the question boils down to whether one person’s life outweighs the especially fragile relationship that the UK has with the US at the moment, under the Trump administration. We can all decide that Trump is an idiot (and lots of people here have) but the nature of our relationship with the US depends a lot on the relationship we have with its president.
So my gut feel is that the UK’s politicians have done exactly what they needed to do, to be able to say they acted correctly. And when the extradition doesn’t happen, they can plausibly blame the Trump administration for that. So Johnson is quite right when he says candidly that there isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell of Mrs Sacoolas being extradited. Johnson to me seems to lack the attention to detail needed to be a good Prime Minister, but his gut feel, in this case at least, is probably on the mark.
The latest twist? Well, Mr Dunn appeared on TV again Wednesday, slamming Johnson for his pessimism. I myself don’t see much contradiction. Dunn has to have hope, Johnson has to have pragmatism.
So, who won? Watch this space…