On the evening of August 27th, in the county of Northamptonshire in the United Kingdom, a young man was riding his motorcycle when he was struck head on by a car driving on the wrong side of the road. The young man was 19-year-old Harry Dunn, and the driver of the car was Anne Sacoolas, wife of U.S. diplomat Jonathan Sacoolas. The Sacoolas had been in the UK for only about three weeks when the accident occurred.
The following day, August 28th, Northamptonshire police interviewed Ms. Sacoolas, who claimed to have diplomatic immunity. The police applied for a waiver from diplomatic immunity later the same day. Ms. Sacoolas was cautioned not to leave the UK, promised she wouldn’t, then promptly fled back to the United States on a US Air Force plane.
Understandably, people in the UK, particularly the parents of Harry Dunn, are not happy that Ms. Sacoolas was allowed to return to the U.S. To add fuel to the fire, Donald Trump took a nonchalant attitude toward it, saying that driving on the wrong side of the road “happens to a lot of people.”
“You go to Europe and the roads are opposite. And it’s very tough if you’re from the United States, you do make that decision to make a right turn where you’re supposed to make a left turn. The roads are opposite.”
Stop and think for a minute … what if the tables were turned. What if a British diplomat’s wife killed a person here because she was driving on the wrong side of the road. Would we shrug our shoulders and say, “Oh well, our roads are the opposite, so what can you expect?” I think not. There is a certain responsibility when one steps behind the wheel of a car, whether that wheel is on the left or right side of the car, to understand the laws of the country they are driving in, and to, at the very least, understand which side of the road to drive on!
I was pleased to read that yesterday Anne Sacoolas was formally charged by Northamptonshire Police with “causing death by dangerous driving”. In Britain, causing death by dangerous driving carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison and a disqualification from driving for at least two years.
I was not pleased with the response by the U.S. State Department, whose spokesperson said …
“We will continue to look for options for moving forward. We are disappointed by today’s announcement and fear that it will not bring a resolution closer. We do not believe that the UK’s charging decision is a helpful development.”
Not a “helpful development”??? What would they consider to be a “helpful development”? I suppose they would prefer that the police simply forget the whole thing, let Ms. Sacoolas get by with taking a young life because of her carelessness? Ms. Sacoolas’ lawyer has said that she would not voluntarily return to the UK to stand trial, and Trump certainly cannot be relied upon to do the right thing and honour the British request for Ms. Sacoolas to be returned to the UK.
It’s probably just as well that I am not a leader of a nation, for if I were Boris Johnson, I believe I would be sorely tempted to expel all U.S. diplomats from the UK, saying that if they do not take the lives of the citizens of the UK any more seriously than that, and if they cannot even manage to drive on the correct side of the road, they are not welcome here!
At the very least, Ms. Sacoolas ought to be willing to return to the UK to stand trial. People in the U.S. would be demanding the same if the tables were turned. At the very least, this should be a lesson for the U.S. … diplomats and their families are guests of the host nation. They are emissaries, they represent us all. When they act with such careless disregard for human life, they put a stain on the entire nation.
Just one more example of what I call “American Arrogance”.