Skip to main content

Alleged Serious and Significant Offences (Diplomatic Immunity)

Volume 629: debated on Wednesday 11 October 2017

In 2016,12 serious and significant offences allegedly committed by people entitled to diplomatic or international organisation-related immunity in the United Kingdom were drawn to the attention of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office by Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection of the Metropolitan Police Service, or other law enforcement agencies. Eight of these were driving-related. We define serious offences as those which could, in certain circumstances, carry a penalty of 12 months’ imprisonment or more. Also included are drink-driving and driving without insurance.

Around 22,500 people are entitled to diplomatic immunity in the United Kingdom and the majority of diplomats abide by UK law. The number of alleged serious crimes committed by members of the diplomatic community in the UK is proportionately low.

Under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961, those entitled to immunity are expected to obey the law. The FCO does not tolerate foreign diplomats breaking the law.

We take all allegations of illegal activity seriously. When instances of alleged criminal conduct are brought to our attention by the police, we ask the relevant foreign government to waive diplomatic immunity where appropriate. For the most serious offences, and when a relevant waiver has not been granted, we seek the immediate withdrawal of the diplomat.

Alleged serious and significant offences reported to the FCO in 2016 are listed below.


Driving without insurance

Qatar 1

Driving without insurance (or an MOT, and not in accordance with a licence)

Saudi Arabia 1

Driving without insurance (and not in accordance with a licence)

Guinea 1

Pakistan 1

Driving under the influence of alcohol

Botswana 1

Russia 2

Driving under the influence of alcohol (using a hand-held mobile telephone or other hand-held interactive communication device when driving)

Saudi Arabia 1

Actual bodily harm(a)

Libya 1

Possession of a class B drug with intent to supply(a)

Libya 1

Possession of an offensive weapon(a)

Libya 1

(a)These are allegations made against the same person.

The following offence was also reported to the FCO in 2016 and the offender’s criminal conduct was proven in a court of law.

Sexual Assault

European Bank of Reconstruction and Development 1

We also wish to record that in 2016 a former attaché at the Canadian High Commission was convicted at Southwark Crown Court of three counts of making indecent photographs/pseudo-photograph of a child; one count of possessing a prohibited image of a child; one count of possessing an extreme pornographic image; and one count of failing to comply with a section 49 Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act notice. The former attaché was sentenced to nine months’ imprisonment. These offences were not recorded in last year’s written ministerial statement because the case was then sub-judice and their previous inclusion might have prejudiced the outcome of criminal proceedings.

Figures for previous years are available in the Secretary for State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs’ written statement to the House on 21 July 2016, Official Report, column 40WS [HCWS106] .