Isaac Davison

Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Eight convictions avoided in four years through immunity rights

Murray McCully has provided detailed instances in which diplomats have avoided prosecution since 2010. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Murray McCully has provided detailed instances in which diplomats have avoided prosecution since 2010. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Diplomatic immunity has been claimed eight times in the last four years, with four suspects escaping charges by fleeing the country.

Official advice to Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully, provided to the Herald, detailed the instances in which diplomats or their families avoided prosecution since 2010.

The case of Malaysian High Commission staff member Muhammed Rizalman bin Ismail has put the spotlight on immunity for diplomatic staff.

Rizalman was expected to return in the next few days to New Zealand, where there is a warrant for his arrest on charges of assault with intent to commit sexual violation, and entering a building with intent to commit an imprisonable offence.

In the last four years, foreign representatives have been accused of reckless driving, domestic abuse, and possessing objectionable material.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade's records include several cases not previously reported.

Last year, two unnamed countries withdrew diplomats after they were involved in assaults, one of them a domestic attack.

In January 2010, a diplomat's son was removed from the country after being accused of reckless driving. In 2012, another official's son claimed immunity and was sent home after being charged for assault.

Some officials complained about their treatment from police.

In January 2013, a diplomat complained that his immunity had been "violated" because he was asked to undergo a roadside breath test.

Australian navy officer Mark Napier waived his right to immunity while facing charges for possession of 40,000 objectionable images.

After pleading guilty in the Wellington District Court in 2010, he was fined and sent back to Australia.

Under the Vienna Convention, diplomats cannot be prosecuted unless immunity is waived, but they can be expelled.

- NZ Herald

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