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Children within the Diplomatic Services

Where there is concern that a child who is a member of a diplomat's family is at risk of abuse caution must be exercised in taking protective measures. Diplomats and members of their household have immunity from civil, criminal and administrative jurisdiction. They cannot be detained, arrested nor have their homes entered without consent.

The distinction is drawn between the head of the diplomatic mission, members of the technical and administrative staff and general members of the mission, and by association each category's household. The rank of the person in question must therefore be established as a priority.

Different categories of staff of the mission are entitled to different forms of immunity.

The head of the mission is entitled to full criminal and civil immunity. Technical and administrative staff is entitled to full criminal immunity and full civil immunity for acts within the course of their duties - e.g. a chauffeur is subject to the Children Act 1989 for acts which fall outside of the course of her/his duties.

General members - e.g. members of the domestic service staff have immunity only for acts in the course of their duties in respect of both criminal and civil matters.

Should abuse be suspected in a family cited above, it is possible to proceed (cautiously) in the usual manner.

Certain immunity applies to the residence of the diplomat or to categories of diplomatic employees. The residence of diplomats and certain employees is inviolable and legal advice must be sought before attempting to force the removal of the child from that location. In most instances, it will be advisable to consider removing the child from school or another place outside of her/his residence.

The inviolability of the diplomat's residence does not preclude reliance on evidence of abuse thought to have taken place within the residence.

Careful consideration must also be given to the possibility of being able to enforce any order should the child return to the diplomat's residence and refuse to surrender. Enforcement may provoke difficulties in itself, but does not deprive the local authority of the power or duty to take action.

It is important in all these case to establish whether diplomatic immunity may be claimed and to what extent. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is prepared to give advice on this point and the Children's Services team manager should contact the 'immunities section of the protocol department' on 020 7210 6383.

Out of office hours, the Police may be asked to ascertain the status of an individual by consulting the central index of privileged person maintained by the Diplomatic Protection Group.

The Head of Child Protection must be notified of all enquiries which may involve diplomatic families and (s)he in consultation with the local authority's legal department is responsible for co-ordinating any necessary action via the Foreign Office.

Children from these diplomatic backgrounds should be subject to ordinary processes including information transfer (preferably at a conference) should the family move to a new area.

Last Updated: December 7, 2023