Anne Sacoolas – what next?
With the recent announcement that Interpol has issued a Red Notice for Anne Sacoolas in relation to the tragic death of Harry Dunn, much has been made in the media of the fact that Ms Sacoolas will be arrested as soon as she sets foot outside of the United States and extradited to the UK to ‘face justice’. Unfortunately for Mr Dunn’s family, it’s not as straight forward as that.
What is a Red Notice?
The fact that a Red Notice has been issued does not automatically mean that an arrest will follow. A Red Notice is simply that; a notice. It informs each Interpol member country (MC) that a person is wanted for the purpose of arrest and extradition. It is not an arrest warrant and there is no obligation on MCs to act upon them. Each MC is free to decide whether it will arrest someone on the basis of a Red Notice. In fact, in the majority of MCs, there is no legal basis to arrest someone on a Red Notice without a warrant being issued in that country first. The MCs will look at what offences are alleged in the Red Notice, which country made the request to Interpol and any other relevant circumstances. It must also be remembered that an arrest on a Red Notice must be done for the purpose of extradition and the likelihood of successful extradition proceedings from that country to the UK will also be a consideration when deciding whether to effect the Red Notice or not.
What does this mean?
If Ms Sacoolas does travel to another country it is likely that she, or someone on her behalf, will engage with the appropriate authorities in that country before she leaves the US. It may be possible to persuade that country not to act upon the Red Notice if they can be satisfied that the Red Notice was inappropriately issued and / or there is no real prospect of extraditing her to the UK. The fact that the US have already refused an extradition request from the UK on the basis of diplomatic immunity will no doubt add weight to this argument.
Extradition agreements between countries are essentially diplomatic arrangements to promote international co-operation on crime prevention and justice. The effectiveness of extradition agreements is underpinned by mutual respect and co-operation between countries. Stronger diplomatic ties will no doubt strengthen the ability to influence a country to extradite or not. The fact that the US emphatically rejected the UK’s extradition request suggests that it would likely exert its significant political clout to dissuade any country from arresting Ms Sacoolas.
Alternatively, Ms Sacoolas may apply to Interpol to have the Red Notice removed on the basis that, due to her having diplomatic immunity whilst she was in the UK, there is no prospect of her being extradited as this would amount to a breach of international convention.
It’s not clear what the next development in this case will be however, regrettably for Mr Dunn’s family, I don’t think we will be seeing Ms Sacoolas in a UK court anytime soon.