Car crash causes first denial of extradition to the UK by US government
January 24, 2020 3:47 AM   Subscribe

No extradition request from the US to the UK had ever been denied. Until teenager Harry Dunn was killed while riding his motorcycle near an RAF base used by the US in Northamptonshire.

The suspect is Anna Sacoolas, wife of a US intelligence officer. There is no dispute that Dunn died following a collision, between his motorcycle and Sacoolas' car. She fled the UK for the US under diplomatic immunity shortly after Dunn was killed, and has since reportedly written a letter to Dunn's family offering her apologies and deepest sympathies for what she considers to be a tragic accident. She is unwilling to return to the UK to face questioning and potential trial. There are two relevant offences in English law - death by careless driving (penalties range from community order to 3 years in prison) and death by dangerous driving (sentencing from 3 years to 14 years).

It is believed that Sacoolas was driving on the wrong (righthand) side of the road when Harry died. And, following footage of other cars driving on the wrong side of the road near the base, Northamptonshire police have announced a package of additional training for new arrivals from the US.

The US-UK extradition treaty is widely perceived to be unbalanced in favour of the US, although legal experts have concluded that is not the case. In the Sacoolas case the US government is concerned about the implications for diplomatic immunity more generally.
posted by plonkee (68 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
She should not have been described as having Diplomatic Immunity in the first place.
Her husband is not a member of diplomatic staff so the Vienna Convention should not apply.

She may have a status of special immunity as granted by the FCO, which is an agreed extension of diplomatic immunity by request, but even that being the case it no longer applies if she is not in the country.

This is an extension of the principle under which the US embassy refused to pay £11 million in traffic charges in 2017 and the US owing the UN $1.3billion in dues. The US foreign office plays only by the rules it likes and ignores any others. Even if the other party is the UN or the UK. Imagine how badly they treat the countries they don't like.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 4:01 AM on January 24 [38 favorites]


Yes, just imagine.
posted by pompomtom at 4:09 AM on January 24 [4 favorites]


This one gave me chills when the story first came out, because I drove in the US for fifteen years before moving over here, then went twenty years without driving, and then three years ago started taking lessons and eventually got my UK license and have been driving regularly ever since. Absent a long course of driving lessons, mainly to override that driving-on-the-right instinct that was imprinted so strongly in my brain, I could absolutely see myself making this mistake. That instinct was present, and I had to work to overcome it, and that was after living here and not driving at all for a very long time. Roundabouts were easy compared to that.

The UK driving exam is so much harder than the one I took in Michigan when I first got my license. The roads are so different, so much narrower and more winding, than almost anything I experienced while driving back in the States. It’s very hard to just jump in, and if this appalling misuse of diplomatic immunity leads to more stringent requirements for letting new arrivals drive, that’s a good thing.
posted by skybluepink at 4:35 AM on January 24 [12 favorites]


Special relationship, indeed.
posted by bouvin at 4:37 AM on January 24


.

(for many things)
posted by lalochezia at 5:05 AM on January 24 [4 favorites]


When I was living in Bedford, I often drove Americans from the air bases around.
Without fail, they all expressed fear, and surprise about how few accidents we had on our roads as they felt THEY wouldn't be able to cope with the narrow main roads , never mind the back country lanes.
I remember well one occasion when an American lecturer, giving a course on confidence and management, actually asked to stop the car so he could be sick whilst being taken for a country pub lunch.
posted by Burn_IT at 5:31 AM on January 24 [10 favorites]


Every now and then there's a horrible wee hours of the morning head-on accident on I-4 near Orlando, Florida because some English tourist entered the highway in the wrong direction. I guess when the roads are empty it's easier to mistake one of our off ramps for one of their on ramps.
posted by lordrunningclam at 5:47 AM on January 24 [4 favorites]


Recall that during a White House meeting, Trump tried to arrange a surprise meeting between the grieving parents and Sacoolas.
posted by Gelatin at 5:57 AM on January 24 [26 favorites]


This whole story is an absolute disgrace and the US authorities should hang their heads in shame.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 5:59 AM on January 24 [15 favorites]


I drove for 20-ish years in the States without incident. I moved to London 16 years ago, and was able to get by OK without driving, though it is limiting in rural areas. For that reason, I spent a lot of time and money last year trying to finally get my UK license, and I eventually gave up because I found it impossible to re-wire my reptile brain to use the left side of the road as a matter of instinct. Combine that with seemingly suicidal bicyclists (some, not all), and general driver aggression, and it looks like I'll be riding shoe leather and the bus for the foreseeable.
posted by Optamystic at 6:02 AM on January 24


I can only hope this makes the UK pause before entering any post-Brexit negotiations with the US and that Britain now refuses to extradite our citizens to the US.
posted by epo at 6:13 AM on January 24 [8 favorites]


I was disappointed to see this decision. If it really did put overall diplomatic immunity at risk, then I can understand it I guess, but that seems flimsy. And whatever diplomatic immunity is supposed to offer, it shouldn't be a free pass for fleeing the country after killing someone by accident.

I guess when the roads are empty it's easier to mistake one of our off ramps for one of their on ramps.

I'm comfortable driving on either side of the road. But every time, there is a stressful moment where you are making the first cross-traffic turn onto a multi-lane street, and you have to select the correct lane which is always contrary to your instincts. The absolute worst, for me at least, were the times I have had to drive a wrong-hand-drive car (ie, a UK car in the US or vice versa). Not only can you not see to pass anyone safely, I found that it really scrambled up my instincts and made everything just feel wrong no matter how carefully I followed the rules.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:14 AM on January 24 [5 favorites]


I’d also like to say, I am not looking to excuse this, I’m trying to say the basic rules of the road and the physical differences in the way you drive in both countries makes it almost inevitable, unless you are actually required to learn those differences and demonstrate you have absorbed them. The signs and terminology can be confusing unless you’ve sat down and learned the Highway Code, which you have to do to pass the written test. I’d been blithely riding along as a passenger with no idea of what many of them meant at all. They’re often much more detailed than US road signs, which I appreciate now, but when you’re flying down the road, that’s often a lot of information to read very quickly.
posted by skybluepink at 6:36 AM on January 24


but when you’re flying down the road, that’s often a lot of information to read very quickly.

A good reason to slow down. Speed limits are a maximum, not a proscribed speed. Don't drive faster than you can drive safely.
posted by Dysk at 6:47 AM on January 24 [13 favorites]


I'm afraid all these posts about the difficulty of adapting to driving on the other side of the road comes across as a derail exactly looking to excuse this.

The fact is that a US citizen was negligently responsible for the death of a UK citizen. I seem to recall that Sacoolas gave an undertaking to the police that she would remain in the UK pending investigations and then departed the country on a bogus pretext of diplomatic immunity. Now, on that same bogus pretext, the US refuses to even have their citizen questioned by UK police.
posted by epo at 6:50 AM on January 24 [51 favorites]


You know what, that’s fair enough. I guess from my perspective, driving on British roads is so different that I’m appalled anybody could do it casually, and horrified that they’d skate on a bullshit claim of diplomatic immunity when they fuck it up and kill someone.
posted by skybluepink at 7:00 AM on January 24 [6 favorites]


Given that the driver is amoral enough to attempt to flee their responsibility for killing someone, this was a huge strategic mistake on their part.

From my perspective as someone who's not in denial about the lethality of motor vehicles, at the level of privilege that the driver appears to operate at (white, has disposable incomes), killing someone by dangerous driving will only ever be prosecuted as causing death by careless driving, and would've been unlikely to have had a suspended prison sentence, let alone an immediate prison sentence.

One additional factor is that, due to inadequate triage, the 999 call was not classified as urgent, so the ambulance took 45 minutes to arrive.

In a lot of ways, it's sad that the story that has broken is about extradition, rather than the 5 people a day who are killed on the roads in the UK (or, for that matter, the 100 people killed on US roads per day, seeing as there's a lot of people here saying UK roads are especially dangerous), and the way that criminal justice treats the crimes that cause these killings according to social status rather than criminal culpability.

But the UK does definitely need to be stronger in making sure US military bases do not undermine the rule of law, too.
posted by ambrosen at 7:17 AM on January 24 [2 favorites]


This case never got to the point where we could start complaining about inadequate sentencing/charges, or how we take automotive deaths far too lightly. I think it's fair enough to complain that it never even reached the courts. If it did/does, then it makes sense to complain about the potential outcome of a trial. It seems a bit pointless complaining that the courts don't take the issue seriously enough when the courts didn't even get to examine this case.

I mean, we all know the courts wouldn't take this seriously enough. But they never even had a chance to. That's an even bigger issue.
posted by Dysk at 7:23 AM on January 24 [4 favorites]


Something just seems weird about this. I'm not going to get all conspiracy minded, but the escape and extradition refusal just seems weird.
posted by aramaic at 7:23 AM on January 24 [3 favorites]


@aramic They're both CIA spooks is why.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 7:37 AM on January 24 [12 favorites]


Yeah, hey fuck this "oh it's so difficult to drive on the other side of the road". It's a piece of piss. Try to keep the steering wheel on the other side of the footpath. My mum can manage it.

a) people drive on an unfamiliar side of the road ALL THE TIME.

b) this criminal fled the country knowing they'd killed somoeone

c) the USA is now protecting this criminal because US-born people are worth more than other-borne people.

Am I getting this right?

(trick question, really, because this is somehow a SPECIAL RICH persion or something)
posted by pompomtom at 7:44 AM on January 24 [29 favorites]


Yeah, I'm not really buying the whole 'driving on the other side of the road is HARD' thing either. I don't drive personally, but I have a lot of family who regularly travel between Hong Kong and the UK (driving on the left) and Denmark (driving on the right), and drive in both places. None of them have ever had an accident.

I suspect far more likely is that training and licensing requirements in the US are a joke compared to over here, and consequently it is hard for many US drivers to drive anywhere, especially (but not exclusively) anywhere outside of the US.

But really, none of that matters. If you feel you can't drive safely somewhere, then don't drive there. It doesn't matter why. And if you can't judge that adequately yourself, and kill another person through your fucking up, take the damn consequences.
posted by Dysk at 7:52 AM on January 24 [8 favorites]


I suspect far more likely is that training and licensing requirements in the US are a joke compared to over here

Driving a car is not difficult, as you know. My guess is she was pissed.

The big deal here is where the US asserts its "You can't actually fuck with us because we've got all the nukes, and we protect our rich people" authority. Again.
posted by pompomtom at 8:00 AM on January 24 [5 favorites]


I'm guessing it was thought that the Obama administration would have extradited her. I know that sounds somewhat flippant, but you can't underestimate Trump's desire to undo literally everything the previous president did or agreed with.
posted by tommasz at 8:27 AM on January 24 [4 favorites]


"I suspect far more likely is that training and licensing requirements in the US are a joke compared to over here"

And I suspect this is why I get the answer 'because drivers are bad at driving' every time I ask what problem self-driving cars are supposed to be solving, even if they were remotely likely to happen in the foreseeable future. I also suspect the money being spaffed away on them might be better spent teaching Americans to drive properly, and enforcing that.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 8:39 AM on January 24 [4 favorites]


I'm guessing it was thought that the Obama administration would have extradited her.

...and that's a lovely guess.

I'd guess that she is a friend of the kleptocracy and that little people don't matter.
posted by pompomtom at 8:40 AM on January 24 [2 favorites]


Seems like maybe they should kick the US personnel off that base. And I'm speaking as a former US serviceman who served in Europe. Shut that shit down.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 8:43 AM on January 24 [1 favorite]


Driving a car is not difficult, as you know. My guess is she was pissed.

This thread is full of people asserting the opposite. Primarily Americans suggesting that UK roads and signage are confusing and difficult compared to what's required of motorists in the US.
posted by Dysk at 8:45 AM on January 24 [1 favorite]


NB: Had I killed someone due to my own laxity and/or stupidity, I'd likely try to run. That said, I'd be very surprised if my government violated established standards to stop me facing judgement.
posted by pompomtom at 8:47 AM on January 24


To follow on to gelatin's comment, reportage on that attempted 'surprise' meeting last October, text bolded for emphasis:

Parents of killed British teen accuse White House of ambushing them with accused killer (Politico, Oct. 16, 2019)
“The family had four surprises yesterday,” [Dunn spokesman Radd] Seiger said in the statement, calling the initial invitation to the White House “out of the blue” and adding that the family had no idea Trump would meet with them personally. But, he continued, they were unaware that Sacoolas would even be in the building.

“It was the President’s intention for Harry’s family to meet Mrs Sacoolas in the Oval Office in front of several photographers in what [was] obviously designed to be a press call,” Seiger said.

The family declined to meet with Sacoolas. [...] "In an interview on “CBS This Morning” on Wednesday, the Dunns admitted to feeling “a bit [of] pressure” from Trump, noting that "he did ask two or three times” but “we stuck to our guns." [...]

An attorney for Sacoolas told CBS News her client, too, was unaware she would potentially be meeting the Dunns when she was invited to the White House on Tuesday.
Except, that per BBC.com, also Oct. 16, 2019: A statement issued by Mrs Sacoolas' lawyer Amy Jeffress said: "We are trying to handle the matter privately and look forward to hearing from the family or their representatives. Anne accepted the invitation to the White House with the hope that the family would meet and was disappointed."

For his part: Trump claims Boris Johnson told him to have the Dunns and Sacoolas meet (The Guardian, Oct. 16, 2019)) and took a swipe at the family's legal representation: "Referring to the Dunn family not wanting to meet Sacoolas at the White House, Trump said: 'She was in the room right out there, we met right here. I offered to bring the person in question in and they weren’t ready for it. I spoke with Boris, he asked me if I’d do that, and I did it. Unfortunately they wanted to meet with her and unfortunately when we had everybody together they decided not to meet. Perhaps they had lawyers involved by that time, I don’t know exactly.'"

Trump tormented a grieving family, using the power of his office to do so. Then, when they didn't cave to his demands and he was criticized, he couldn't decide where to place the blame: B. Johnson; the Dunns themselves, who were 'not ready' for his nauseating photo op; puppeteer lawyers. It's all so repulsive, while not being in the least bit surprising.
posted by Iris Gambol at 8:49 AM on January 24 [24 favorites]



This thread is full of people asserting the opposite. Primarily Americans suggesting that UK roads and signage are confusing and difficult compared to what's required of motorists in the US.


I'll bow out then. If people can't drive cautiously, then I suppose I'll get the train.

I've had difficulty in Europe on either side of the road, largely because I will drive slowly, because I'm in a new place, but killing people and escaping extradition because friends has never been an issue for me.
posted by pompomtom at 9:10 AM on January 24 [1 favorite]


The US driving test and requirements having significantly lower standards than Northern European norms is pretty uncontroversial.
posted by Dysk at 9:14 AM on January 24


The official position of the United States government is that no one with money or influence should ever have to be held accountable for anything, full stop.
posted by Two unicycles and some duct tape at 9:19 AM on January 24 [5 favorites]


I’m sure the England for the English government will have something to say about all this… probably “yes, sir, mister president, sir”

Welcome to the American empire! If you ain’t American, you ain’t shit.
posted by rodlymight at 9:22 AM on January 24 [2 favorites]


I don't see how "Don't kill motorcyclists with your car and then flee the country" isn't universal.
posted by pompomtom at 9:23 AM on January 24 [9 favorites]


I've lived overseas working on US military bases. Where I lived, the US military issued its own drivers licenses under the local status of forces agreement. These were granted after a 30ish-question, multiple choice, written test. It had common signs and street markings, as well as a couple questions to ensure you knew how to look for your metric speed. Most people could take it cold and pass without any issue.

This was not in the UK (or Japan), so I did not have to deal with alternate side driving. I know a lot of people who have, and they never mentioned that it was more difficult to get a license there. Then again, none of those people got into a fatal accident either. (In a previous life I lived in the UK for a spell but never drove. It was enough to remember which way to look when crossing the street.)

This is deeply tragic and mishandled at every possible level, a sadly common state in both countries these days.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 10:18 AM on January 24


Yeah, hey fuck this "oh it's so difficult to drive on the other side of the road". It's a piece of piss. Try to keep the steering wheel on the other side of the footpath. My mum can manage it.

When I was a kid, my mum (who learned to drive in NZ - same side as the UK) took us on a road trip around Continental Europe. In a camper-van bought in London. Germany, Scandinavia , Italy, France (including around the Arc de Triomphe) etc. No sat-nav. No incidents.

Came back to the UK to stay with relatives for a bit and in the first couple of days hit a mini head on on a country lane. She was on the right and in the wrong. Luckily no-one was hurt.
posted by Kiwi at 10:51 AM on January 24


Can we not get into the "my mom can do it" "my mom can't do it" thing? That's misogyny.
posted by hydropsyche at 11:07 AM on January 24 [9 favorites]


Canadian here who has driven multiple times in the UK and Ireland. I've had absolutely no problems making the change except the one time I was distracted by something a passenger said and pulled out of a parking lot onto the wrong side of the road simply on instinct. Happily onto an empty road (likely helped to cause the mistake) so nothing happened. So yeah it's not unimaginable that this could happen. But it's also a total derail from the issue.

Yes it's understandable that the indecent happened, hell it's even possible that she was not acting irresponsible, and isn't necessarily entirely at "fault". But that is all beside the point. She should have to answer for this in court and have her punishment decided as fairly as possible. It's BS that she fled the country, and further BS that the states won't send her back.
posted by cirhosis at 11:08 AM on January 24 [6 favorites]


State Department: "If the United States were to grant the UK's extradition request, it would render the invocation of diplomatic immunity a practical nullity and would set an extraordinarily troubling precedent."

Not at all true. The immunity exists so that diplomats can carry out their functions free of potential harassment and threat. It is certainly possible for the diplomat's country to waive immunity for actions unrelated to the diplomatic function. It's rare, but there certainly is precedent for it. The system won't come crashing down somehow -- diplomatic relations would arguably be strengthened by not enabling gross abuse.

Diplomatic immunity can be waived. It's simply that here the United States chooses not to.
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:33 AM on January 24 [6 favorites]


It's absolutely clear that the 'special relationship' as always means 'we're special, let us do what we want.' The government will make some noise for a while, in a pretence of doing anything of any consequence, then it will be quietly allowed to fade, for fear of upsetting the orange toddler.

Diplomatic immunity is important for what it's intended for. And this is not what it's intended for. Here's a story. Georgia's second-highest ranking diplomat got drunk and ran over a teenager in Maryland. He had much clearer claim to immunity than the Sacoolas family. The US asked Georgia to waive immunity, they did, and he was sent to prison. Ask the US to do for the UK what Georgia did for it, and oh no no no, we couldn't possibly. Height of hypocrisy.

Also: Anne Sacoolas is an utter coward, and I hope she sees Harry Dunn's face every night in her dreams.
posted by reynir at 11:38 AM on January 24 [11 favorites]


"If the United States were to grant the UK's extradition request, it would render the invocation of diplomatic immunity a practical nullity and would set an extraordinarily troubling precedent."

So we're operating on Die Hard 2 rules, are we?
posted by charred husk at 11:39 AM on January 24


The Trump Doctrine has been described as "We're America, bitch." This is a good example of that. It's also how those post-Brexit trade negotiations are likely to go.

I have not found switching sides of the road difficult. Neither has my partner. We've driven on the small country roads of the UK and Ireland plenty of times. That having been said, we've known other people who really struggled with that switch. If this woman did find it difficult she should not have driven, simple as that.
posted by rednikki at 12:21 PM on January 24


Given that the driver is amoral enough to attempt to flee their responsibility for killing someone, this was a huge strategic mistake on their part.

From my perspective as someone who's not in denial about the lethality of motor vehicles, at the level of privilege that the driver appears to operate at (white, has disposable incomes), killing someone by dangerous driving will only ever be prosecuted as causing death by careless driving, and would've been unlikely to have had a suspended prison sentence, let alone an immediate prison sentence.


This is a good, and depressing, point. I don't know if vehicular killings are taken more seriously in the UK, but in my US city I can't think of a time any driver who didn't intentionally try to evade apprehension got jail time after killing a biker/pedestrian.
posted by dusty potato at 12:22 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


Diplomatic immunity is important for what it's intended for. And this is not what it's intended for. Here's a story. Georgia's second-highest ranking diplomat got drunk and ran over a teenager in Maryland. He had much clearer claim to immunity than the Sacoolas family. The US asked Georgia to waive immunity, they did, and he was sent to prison. Ask the US to do for the UK what Georgia did for it, and oh no no no, we couldn't possibly. Height of hypocrisy.

Man, not to make it out as if Makharadze (the Georgian diplomat) is a stand-up guy or anything, but reading this I had a very odd sensation of how foreign this feels from basically the way basically any situation in the public eye plays out here in 2020:
Standing solemnly in District of Columbia Superior Court to confirm the terms of his plea, he said, ''I take full responsibility for what happened.'' Throughout his brief court appearance, relatives and friends of the dead girl, Joviane Waltrick, 16, dabbed tears from their eyes.
posted by dusty potato at 12:32 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


The trick with small country roads, apart from driving at a safe speed, is passing places. Look out for them and use them, either for faster traffic behind you or something in front of you.
posted by epo at 12:36 PM on January 24


Speaking as an American citizen, the US government talks the talk of democracy and rule of law but doesn’t walk the walk. Of course they should waive immunity. Or, failing that , the lady who did it should voluntarily turn herself in to face justice. Of course, that won’t happen, either because she says she feels badly and isn’t that really punishment enough?

Sorry for the snark but even if you accept the premise that it was an honest accident caused by unfamiliarity with British rules of the road, there’s no excusing everything that happened after the collision that killed this poor kid.

Gawd, sometimes us Yanks are the fucking worst.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 1:43 PM on January 24 [7 favorites]


>the money being spaffed away on them might be better spent teaching Americans to drive properly, and enforcing that<

Yea, smarter cars are easier than smarter people/drivers (unfortunately)...
posted by twidget at 2:47 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


So we're operating on Die Hard 2 rules, are we?

Lethal Weapon 2, surely.
posted by SPrintF at 3:23 PM on January 24



Driving a car is not difficult, as you know. My guess is she was pissed.


There certainly has been speculation to that effect, given the timing of the accident as well I believe. And the fact is, in the UK, like anywhere else, a car should always be the murder weapon of choice as the penalties are ridiculously lenient. The fact she fled the country implies to me that she thought the penalty would be unusually harsh... why might that be? Cause she was drunk.

Of course this is all speculation, but that's what you get when you attempt to flee from justice, it's a disgrace.
posted by smoke at 3:36 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


If I was her, I'd come back to the UK, and deal with the consequences. Imagine the thoughts, of having killed someone, and just... not dealing with it. Staying away. For the rest of her life?
posted by peepofgold at 3:47 PM on January 24


Try to keep the steering wheel on the other side of the footpath.

Is is known that she was driving a UK car and not an American SUV for example?
posted by JackFlash at 4:38 PM on January 24


Sacoolas was driving a Volvo XC90, a "true luxury SUV that combines advanced safety and comfort, designed with the driving experience of all 7 passengers in mind," which is available in the US and the UK.

One additional factor is that, due to inadequate triage, the 999 call was not classified as urgent, so the ambulance took 45 minutes to arrive.

The first call made by a witness of the collision was put in category 2, which refers to incidents of a potentially serious condition and which estimates a waiting time of 40 minutes for patients. (The Guardian, Nov. 6, 2019)

Every major bone in Dunn's body was broken, and he remained responsive throughout the whole ordeal -- "He was clearly conscious and by the time Tim got there he was still talking." Tim's his dad. I was primed to be angry about the lack of medical assistance from RAF Croughton, when the crash was nearly on its doorstep, but as it turns out there are weekday dental, optometry, and family health clinics but no emergency services on base. I wish someone had been able to update/supersede that initial witness report, for proper categorization and action - one of the cops on the scene? Though execs at East Midlands Ambulance Service, in the Guardian link, say that there was a shortage of available doctors/crews anyway, and proper categorization would not have helped.

As for the suspicions Sacoolas was drunk -- in the Guardian timeline of key events, compiled Dec. 3, 2019: "She cooperates with police at the scene and is breathalysed." She was charged with causing death by dangerous driving, but not with being under the influence.
posted by Iris Gambol at 6:12 PM on January 24 [6 favorites]


What is the statute of limitations? Could a new president elected later this year reverse the decision once in office a year from now?
posted by ElKevbo at 6:21 PM on January 24


From the FPP's second link, Harry Dunn: Anne Sacoolas extradition request rejected by US (BBC.com, Jan. 24, 2020): Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Seiger [the Dunn family's spokesman] said the latest move had been "factored it into our planning and strategy".

"The reality is that this administration, which we say is behaving lawlessly and taking a wrecking ball to one of the greatest alliances in the world, they won't be around forever whereas that extradition request will be," he added. "We will simply plot and plan for a reasonable administration to come in one day and to reverse this decision."

Treaty between the USA and the United Kingdom on Extradition, Article 6, Statute of Limitations: The decision by the Requested State whether to grant the request for extradition shall be made without regard to any statute of limitations in either State.
posted by Iris Gambol at 6:45 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


It is possible for it both to be true that driving on a different side of the road is hard (for some/most) people and that she shouldn't have fled the country and should be extradited.

I don't think it's reasonable within usual societal expectations to say if you find driving (on the wrong side) difficult, you shouldn't do it. Every person when they first learn to drive finds driving difficult full stop. A moment's inattention, distraction or confusion can be catastrophic. Learners only get to a (relatively) safe point through practice. We don't say, if you find driving difficult you should give up. It's similar for driving in a new country.

Society has this weird consensus about driving that it's okay to put flawed humans in charge of lethal machinery in complex environments and we kind of accept a certain number of deaths each year as a reasonable trade off for the convenience. I think it's fucked, actually, but, it's what we accept in general so I don't think it's a stretch to say in that case we should also accept that there will be some deaths from people driving in foreign countries.

That doesn't mean there shouldn't be consequences for individuals, of course, and it's definitely a matter for police and courts to determine if there was wrongdoing or negligence. And on top of this there's the bullshit of powerful countries using that power to ensure their citizens are not held to the same account as citizens of less powerful countries.

I say all of this as someone who drives as little as possible even in my own country and has only once chosen to drive in a country that uses the other side of the road and will not do so again, because I can see how easily I could make an error of judgement. It's all very well to say "it's easy", but there are definitely complex circumstances (empty roads, multiple lanes, complex intersections, combined with distracting weather or something) where even the most competent driver might briefly make a mistake.
posted by lollusc at 6:54 PM on January 24 [5 favorites]


I think it's entirely reasonable to say if you find driving on the wrong side difficult then don't do it.

Sacoolas had plenty of other options. The airbase probably even has a regular bus service.
posted by epo at 1:14 AM on January 25 [1 favorite]


Every person when they first learn to drive finds driving difficult full stop. A moment's inattention, distraction or confusion can be catastrophic. Learners only get to a (relatively) safe point through practice. We don't say, if you find driving difficult you should give up.

No, in the UK at say you should only drive with learner plates during daylight hours under the supervision of a qualified driver or instructor until such a time as you are comfortable, safe, and competent, and can demonstrate that to an examiner under fairly stringent test conditions.

If she didn't feel comfortable driving, she shouldn't have. I dunno how they do things in Aus, but I know a bit about how they do things in the US, and yeah, I get the impression that they give licenses to people who aren't competent yet and just expect them to figure it out and get better. That is emphatically not how it works or is supposed to work over here.

If you can't drive safely in traffic, you can't drive. Driving is not and should not be exclusively or even primarily about your ability to make a car move in a direction.

So yes, I posit that it is reasonable to say she shouldn't have been driving if she wasn't able to do it safely. She should have been taking lessons.
posted by Dysk at 2:21 AM on January 25 [9 favorites]


Ok, I probably shouldn't have said "learners". Even people who have recently passed a strigent test and not yet been driving regularly for, say, 20 years, do find driving more difficult, and are more likely to make errors of judgement if the unexpected occurs. That's why insurance premiums differ depending on your age/how long you have had your license.

And feeling comfortable doesn't necessarily equate to being safe or not. (A colleague who drives like a total maniac is very comfortable driving, while I am extremely cautious and am uncomfortable with how dangerous driving feels, despite having driven for 25 years without an accident).

I do think it would be reasonable to require people wanting to drive in a new country even as a tourist to have to sit a driving exam before doing so, but I also expect plenty of people could pass such an exam and still have a statistically slightly higher chance of causing an accident than a local would.

(Not defending this specific case though).
posted by lollusc at 5:40 AM on January 25 [1 favorite]


A friend of mine from the US rented a car in Scotland and the rental company gave her a rubber bracelet labeled "left hand only" to be worn on the left hand while driving as a way to help drivers remember the correct side of the road and stop left/right confusion while turning. I'm also from the US and have driven a few times in the UK - a couple of times when turning I had a moment of panic as I made sure I was really on the correct side, so I could see it being a helpful aid. (It feels so contrary to my training and muscle memory to turn into the left lane like that!)
posted by rmd1023 at 10:56 AM on January 25 [1 favorite]


I can't think of a time any driver who didn't intentionally try to evade apprehension got jail time after killing a biker/pedestrian.

My cousin-by-marriage, a white kid from a wealthy middle class family, hit and killed some pedestrians in Florida. It was all well before I entered the family, so I don’t know all the details, but there were both aggravating and mitigating factors - it was a tragedy in many ways.
He was under 21 at the time, and despite good (or at least very expensive) legal representation and his membership of a privileged group he spent the rest of his life (decades) in prison. So it does happen - the law is just applied very unevenly.
posted by memetoclast at 1:01 PM on January 26


Back on October 9th, The Daily Beast had a wealth of worse details in its summary:

- In 2006, Anne Sacoolas had been cited for "failing to pay attention while driving" in the US

- Harry Dunn was a twin; his brother's name is Niall

- "At the scene of the accident, Sacoolas, whose 12-year-old son was reportedly a passenger in the Volvo..."

- Family spokesman Radd Seiger's own son was Harry Dunn's best friend

- In contrast to other outlets, which report a breathalyser test was administered, "Because Dunn was still alive when he was taken away by ambulance after the accident, Sacoolas was not arrested at the scene—nor was she checked for alcohol or drug use, according to a Northamptonshire Police spokesperson."

And even then, despite the precedent anchoring this FPP: "If she does come back, it will likely be of her own free will. It is highly unlikely the American government would force her to return."
posted by Iris Gambol at 3:09 PM on January 26


I just want to add my voice to those who are saying it's not "simple" to avoid the wrong side of the road when driving overseas. I'm 40, live in the UK, and have frequently driven either my own car on the continent, or left-hand drive hire cars.

I'm flat out paranoid about pulling onto the wrong side, because of things like this. I recite rhymes to myself constantly ("Drive on the right, don't die tonight"). I've stuck an arrow drawn on masking tape on my dashboard. I've changed the wallpaper on the phone I use as a sat nav to remind me.

Still, it has happened three or four times in about 20 years. It's been about 100m or less each time, never come close to an accident, and each one has reinforced the error point in my head. I can tell you when they happen though, it's when I've encountered an unusual (compared to the UK) or high input driving situation, and always on undivided roads when there's not other traffic around. The first would be something like the single lane bridges on the main road in Iceland. You slow down to cross, trying to see if anyone's coming the other way, and then speed back up and pull back over to your side. Did it once where I pulled to the left hand side, rather than to the right. The second would be an example where I was driving through a French small town /large village in the small hours, slowly trying to find my way through massed road works and diversions. The side of one roundabout was closed, so you had to go around the wrong way (traffic light controlled). Came around it the 'right' way if I was in the UK, and pulled onto the left hand side of the road while looking for road signs back to the motorway.

It's possible for it to happen, even if you're consciously looking out for it. That doesn't make it any less wrong for it to happen, but I think that saying "it doesn't happen to competent drivers" is only going to make people more likely to accidentally do it. Most people think of themselves as a competent driver, and it's a subconscious message that they don't need to watch out for it as much. It's those other drivers who need to worry about it.
posted by MattWPBS at 9:29 AM on January 27 [3 favorites]


always on undivided roads when there's not other traffic around

Agreed, when there are fewer visual cues this sort of thing can happen.

If she didn't feel comfortable driving, she shouldn't have

This is probably exactly backwards - it's when you do feel comfortable driving, and you're on a quiet road at night that this sort of slip can most easily happen.

However as others have mentioned the culpability [or not] of the driver is not the issue here, it's the cowardice of the driver, and the willingness of the U.S. govt to back that up that stinks.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 6:15 PM on January 27 [1 favorite]


Being confident or comfortable does not necessarily mean switching off or being less attentive. You do not have to consider yourself a major risk in traffic to pay attention.
posted by Dysk at 2:59 AM on January 28


Cars are bad, drivers are bad, it's irrelevant if they were experienced driving on one side or the other.
None of this is about the actual incident.

This is about absolute disregard for national and international law.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 3:30 AM on January 28


None of this is about the actual incident.

It kind of is, because of the fact that she was on the wrong side of the road. That's what makes her solely culpable, that's what makes this a crime rather than just an accident.
posted by Dysk at 3:34 AM on January 28


This is about absolute disregard for national and international law.

But it's also about which laws are considered worth respecting. And laws against criminal negligence on the road are very poorly respected in almost all circles of almost all societies.
posted by ambrosen at 2:25 PM on January 28 [2 favorites]


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