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Diplomatic immunity – it’s just been revoked



Well, it hasn’t been revoked, but who wouldn’t want the chance to see the classic Lethal Weapon 2 exchange?



[If any ancillary relief Judge wants to quip in a case involving a millionaire farmer – “You want to be a farmer? Well here’s a couple of acres” then you’d be doing me a solid. Failing that, I’d settle for a “Get to the chopper” line for a case involving a TV chef]


This case involves a child whose father has taken one of two twins (I know, that seems redundant, twins do tend to come in twos, but ‘one child of twins’ doesn’t seem great either) to another unnamed country, whilst the other remains with his mother in England.


The mother obtained an order for the return of that child. The father asserted diplomatic immunity.


I would love to be able to assert diplomatic immunity. If there’s a country out there who wants a diplomat, a country that is prepared to accept that I would almost certainly abuse that privilege, then give me a call. I would be prepared to learn another language (at least to the extent of “sorry sucker, I’m afraid I’ve got diplomatic immunity” in said language)


Re MA and Another 2015


There was some debate about whether diplomatic immunity only extended to things which occurred during the carrying out of professional duties or all things, but it is settled as being complete immunity from arrest or detention.


A feature of the case is that the father has asserted diplomatic immunity, pursuant to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Immunity, incorporated by the Diplomatic Privileges Act of 1964. It appeared, following the father’s arrest on 14 October 2014, that whilst the diplomatic protection the father enjoys is in effect full immunity from the criminal jurisdiction and in the civil and administrative jurisdiction, it was limited to acts performed only within the course of his duties. As matters have evolved it seems the scope of his protection is more extensive and he remains, it is asserted, inviolable at all time to any form of arrest or detention.




The High Court may retain some powers under the inherent jurisdiction to ask him to think very carefully about what he’s done and why he should say sorry, but that’s about it. Also, I’m adding ‘inviolable’ to a growing list of words I don’t want to try to pronounce for the first time in Court.


The father didn’t attend the hearing. He did produce a statement, which the Court wasn’t very impressed with. It wasn’t in a recognisable format and they did not think that a lawyer had been involved in its preparation.


[my personal speculation was that his statement was just “sorry suckers, I’m afraid I’ve got diplomatic immunity” in Guarani. Or alternatively, just a CD with a loop of Billy Bragg singing the “your laws do not apply to me” bit from Sexuality]


and the Court decided to proceed in his absence and hear evidence from the mother. They repeated the order that he should return the child to the jurisdiction and that the child was wrongfully removed from the mother’s care and out of the jurisdiction.


That’s an order that is somewhat toothless, since there is no punishment that the Court can levy against him if he decides not to comply. It is still the right thing to make the order.


Enforcement of it is going to be very difficult indeed. Let’s hope that these twins are reunited without any further litigation.


About suesspiciousminds

Law geek, local authority care hack, fascinated by words and quirky information; deeply committed to cheesecake and beer.

6 responses

  1. I disagree. This order is like the (mythical) bull against the comet. Or like an order declaring rights of way over land in in another country. It brings the court into disrepute when ordrs are made which cannot – just cannot – be enforced. Hayden J should have dismissed the proceedings.

  2. Andrew- Re B [2003] 1 FLR 241 relates to the question of diplomatic immunity in care proceedings containing an allegation of NAI, where it was held that diplomats are not immune to civil proceedings relating to acts performed outside of their duties, including care proceedings. Further, the fact that a care order may not be enforceable was not a bar to making it.

    • Yes, a Care Order would be a bit different. This is about what you do with a Diplomat who defies a court order for the return of the child, since none of the available sanctions can apply. The Care Order authorises removal of the child, not detention of the adult. But it is a good spot Amy, and thank you for highlighting it.

  3. I hope, that when this filters through to the country in question, that they realise the suffering the mother and more importantly, both children will have suffered, sibling separation is devastating enough but more so for twins who have a special connection. I also hope they see that this father has no consideration for his children and really couldn’t give a stuff about their emotional well being, this is child abuse for real.
    It’s not just a case of ‘we have two let’s take one each’ it’s a case of splitting a family unnecessarily

  4. Actually, I think that both twins were swiped; there is a third child who appears still to be with the mother, which seems to be the source of the confusion.

    Irrespective of whether it’s one or both twins I agree that there is a dilemma in deciding whether or not to make the Order; I think I’m with Suespiciousminds on this one. If nothing else, it may persuade the Foreign Office to make noises at the Ambassador for the country concerned, and whilst the FO is notorious for extending all help short of actual aid, it may be able to persuade Nowhereistan that we British get upset by things like this.

    Incidentally, where is the Daily Mail? Have they downsized the frothing at the mouth department whilst we weren’t looking? Enquiring minds want to know…

  5. Pingback: Diplomatic immunity – it’s just bee...

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