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The wife of an American diplomat in the UK has fled back to America after killing a young British man with her car. Anne Sacoolas was driving on the wrong side of the road at the time of the crash, it is thought that she was confused because cars drive on the right in America but on the left in the UK. She was presumably driving instinctively on the right as she would do in America. Harry Dunn, a 19-year-old British man, was riding his motorcycle when Sacoolas hit him with her Volvo SUV. Harry died in hospital shortly after.

Police questioned Mrs Sacoolas at the scene of the incident, including inquiries about whether she had any plans to return to America. Police could not arrest Sacoolas as she was protected by diplomatic immunity while in the UK. Diplomatic immunity protects diplomats, their family members and workers from being arrested or charged with any crime committed while in their host country. Diplomats have immunity so they cannot be pressured into betraying their home country while in the host country. Without diplomatic immunity, a corrupt government could blackmail diplomats for information about their home country by threatening to put them in prison or punish them in another way. Diplomatic immunity doesn’t usually have a significant impact beyond exempting diplomats, their workers and family from things like speeding and parking tickets. It is very rare for a more serious crime to be committed.

In the event of a more serious crime being committed by a diplomat or someone close to them, the host country can appeal to have their immunity revoked. The decision to revoke immunity is entirely up to the diplomat’s home country and they have no obligation to do so. A Russian diplomat stationed in Canada killed a Canadian woman in a drunk driving incident in 2001 and was also protected by his diplomatic immunity. Russia refused to waive his immunity and recalled him to Russia. Authorities in Russia did, however, conduct their own investigation into the incident and found him guilty of the crime. He was sentenced to 4 years in prison and banned from driving for 3 years after his release.

The US has so far refused to waive Mrs Sacoolas’ immunity, although now that she is back in the US, her immunity is no longer valid. There has similarly been no suggestion that Sacoolas could be investigated and charged by the US government. The UK could appeal to the US government to have her extradited back to the UK because the US and UK have an extradition treaty. Nevertheless, in this unique circumstance, it is unclear whether Sacoolas would or even could be extradited to the UK.

The situation has caused an uproar in both the US and the UK. The family of Harry Dunn have appealed to the UK government, the US government and Mrs Sacoolas herself in an attempt to get justice for Harry. It is unclear how the situation will unfold but there is a vast amount of pressure on the governments of the UK and the US to find a solution.

Difficult words

Diplomat (n): A person who represents a country.

Presumably (adv): Expected, or most likely.

Instinctively (adv): To have a natural feeling about something.

Immunity (n): The action of being protected or exempt from something.

Betraying (v): To be disloyal and do something against someone who trusts you.

Blackmail (v): Threatening to do something bad if someone does not do what you want.

Revoke (v): To cancel or take away something previously allowed.

Waive (v): To cancel or abandon something owed.

Extradite (v): To take someone out of a country and send them to another.

Activities

For listening practise, listen to the recorded article here:

British English: Coming Soon!

American English: 

Match the Synonym!

1. Diplomat A. Natural feeling.
2. Presumably B. Threaten
3. Instinctively C. Cancel what is owed.
4. Immunity D. Take back.
5. Betraying E. Protection
6. Blackmail F. A person who represents.
7. Revoke G. Take out of a country.
8. Waive H. Disloyal
9. Extradite I. Assume

True or False?

1.  A British diplomat killed a young man with his car. T / F

2. The young man was walking on the road. T / F

3. Anne Sacoolas was driving on the wrong side of the road. T / F

4. Harry died on the road outside. T / F

5. Sacoolas could not be arrested. T / F

6. Diplomatic immunity only protects diplomats, not their families. T / F

7. Diplomatic immunity makes it difficult to threaten diplomats. T / F

8. Diplomatic immunity cannot be revoked by anyone. T / F 

9. A Russian diplomat was sentenced to prison for killing a woman. T / F

10. The US has decided to waive Mrs Sacoolas’ immunity. T / F

Unscramble the sentence!

1. side / of / road / the / was / wrong / Anne Sacoolas / on / driving / the

2. the / She / on / presumably / was / driving / instinctively / right

3. of / at / Mrs Sacoolas / the / questioned / incident / scene / the / Police

4. have / cannot / Diplomats / be / so / pressured / immunity / they

5. refused / Mrs Sacoolas’ / waive / immunity / to / has / far / The US / so

Listening and Vocabulary

Listen to the article and fill in the words OR practice vocabulary and fill in the words.

British English: Coming Soon!

American English:

Extradition Threatening Motorcycle
Inquiries Suggestion Killing
Appealed Immunity Recalled

The wife of an American diplomat in the UK has fled back to America after (1)___________ a young British man with her car. Anne Sacoolas was driving on the wrong side of the road at the time of the crash, it is thought that she was confused because cars drive on the right in America but on the left in the UK. She was presumably driving instinctively on the right as she would do in America. Harry Dunn, a 19-year-old British man, was riding his (2)_______________ when Sacoolas hit him with her Volvo SUV. Harry died in hospital shortly after.

Police questioned Mrs Sacoolas at the scene of the incident, including (3)____________ about whether she had any plans to return to America. Police could not arrest Sacoolas as she was protected by diplomatic immunity while in the UK. Diplomatic immunity protects diplomats, their family members and workers from being arrested or charged with any crime committed while in their host country. Diplomats have immunity so they cannot be pressured into betraying their home country while in the host country. Without diplomatic immunity, a corrupt government could blackmail diplomats for information about their home country by (4)_____________ to put them in prison or punish them in another way. Diplomatic immunity doesn’t usually have a significant impact beyond exempting diplomats, their workers and family from things like speeding and parking tickets. It is very rare for a more serious crime to be committed.

In the event of a more serious crime being committed by a diplomat or someone close to them, the host country can appeal to have their immunity revoked. The decision to revoke (5)________________ is entirely up to the diplomats home country and they have no obligation to do so. A Russian diplomat stationed in Canada killed a Canadian woman in a drunk driving incident in 2001 and was also protected by his diplomatic immunity. Russia refused to waive his immunity and (6)______________ him to Russia. Authorities in Russia did, however, conduct their own investigation into the incident and found him guilty of the crime. He was sentenced to 4 years in prison and banned from driving for 3 years after his release.

The US has so far refused to waive Mrs Sacoolas’ immunity, although now that she is back in the US, her immunity is no longer valid. There has similarly been no (7)_______________ that Sacoolas could be investigated and charged by the US government. The UK could appeal to the US government to have her extradited back to the UK because the US and UK have an (8)________________ treaty. Nevertheless, in this unique circumstance, it is unclear whether Sacoolas would or even could be extradited to the UK.

The situation has caused an uproar in both the US and the UK. The family of Harry Dunn have (9)_______________ to the UK government, the US government and Mrs Sacoolas herself in an attempt to get justice for Harry. It is unclear how the situation will unfold but there is a vast amount of pressure on the governments of the UK and the US to find a solution.

Conversation Questions

Take turns speaking with a partner or try to answer on your own:

1. Did you find this article interesting? Why or why not?
2. Did you learn anything new from this article? If so, what?
3. What do you think of this story?
4. What do you know about diplomats?
5. What do you think about the woman leaving the UK?
6. Should diplomats have immunity?
7. Who should be able to take away diplomatic immunity?
8. Should the woman go to jail?
9. What would you do in this woman’s situation?
10. Have you heard similar stories like this in your country?
11. Do you think diplomats’ families should have immunity too?
12. How can the boy’s family get justice for his death?
13. Do you think any other government positions should have immunity?
14. Should someone go to jail for killing by mistake?
15. Should the US make the woman go back to the UK?
16. When can giving someone immunity benefit society?
17. How can people take advantage of immunity?
18. Do any government workers get special treatment in your country?
19. Do you or are you interested in working for your government?
20. Is working for the government considered a good job in your country?