Quickie: Diplomatic immunity makes news in London

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This one from the Guardian under an enticing headline “Diplomatic crime sprees: foreign embassy staff exempted from charges Officials and dependants in UK have got off scot-free from 78 charges due to diplomatic immunity.”  Excerpt:

Foreign embassy staff been exempted from a range of serious charges that in normal cases would have carried a penalty of at least 12 months in prison, according to figures released in parliament today.

Five diplomats have escaped shoplifting charges since 2005, including an official from the Gambian embassy caught last year, a staffer at the Cameroonian embassy in 2008, and one member of each of the Egyptian, Equatorial Guinean and Zambian embassies accused in 2005.

But perhaps the single biggest offender – albeit on less serious allegations – is the US, which has run up £3,821,880 in unpaid fines incurred in a seven-year diplomatic stand-off over the congestion charge.

There are 25,000 embassy staff and their dependants in the UK covered by diplomatic immunity: over the past five years there were 78 exemptions from serious charges.

One member from each of the Brazilian, German, US and Russian embassies were caught drink-driving but released without charge this year.

Diplomats or their dependants from Saudi Arabia and one from Sierra Leone were alleged to have been involved in human trafficking, and one from Saudi Arabia was accused of sexual assault.

A member of the Pakistan embassy was accused of threatening to kill, and one from Cameroon accused of neglect of a young person.

Embassy staff in London from more than 57 countries have clocked up £534,060 in unpaid parking tickets and minor traffic offences in 2009.

Read the whole thing here.