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Alleged Serious and Significant Offences (Diplomatic Immunity)

Volume 651: debated on Tuesday 18 December 2018

In 2017, 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. Five 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 23,000 people are entitled to diplomatic immunity in the UK and the majority of diplomats and dependants 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, we expect those entitled to immunity to obey the law. The FCO does not tolerate foreign diplomats breaking the law.

We take all allegations of illegal activity seriously. When the police bring instances of alleged criminal conduct to our attention, 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 request the immediate withdrawal of the diplomat.

Listed below are alleged serious and significant offences reported to the FCO by UK law enforcement agencies in 2017.


Driving without insurance

Finland 1 Saudi Arabia 1

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

Sierra Leone 1

Driving under the influence of alcohol

Austria 1

Commonwealth Secretariat 1

Possession of a firearm with intent to injure

Cambodia 1


Egypt 1

Sexual assault

Algeria 1

Rape (a)

Other (b) 2

Attempted rape (a)

Other (b) 1

Malicious communication (a)

Other (b) 1

(a) These are allegations made against the same person, who was subsequently expelled from the UK after a waiver of immunity was requested and rejected by the sending state.

(b) Details have been withheld because the number of diplomatic personnel in the mission concerned is so small that disclosure could lead to inaccurate speculation that other members of the mission were involved.

We also wish to record a further seven alleged offences.

Three allegations each of conspiracy to cheat the public revenue and of conspiracy to launder the proceeds of crime between 31 December 2009 and 1 January 2013, made against a former Cameroonian diplomat and two locally employed members of staff of the High Commission for the Republic of Cameroon. We did not record these alleged offences in previous written ministerial statements because the cases were under investigation.

One additional count of driving without insurance made against a member of staff of the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in 2016. This was not reported to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office until later.

Figures for previous years are available in the Secretary for State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs’ written statement to the House on 11 October 2017 (HCWS155) which can be found at: publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2017-10-11/HCWS155/.