Gordon Campbell could enjoy diplomatic immunity even if U.K. officials find sexual assault complaint has merit

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      Canadian media outlets have focused a great deal of attention over the past couple of days on a sexual-assault investigation of a former B.C. premier.

      But even if a 54-year-old woman's complaint is deemed worthy of prosecution, it's questionable whether Gordon Campbell could even be charged with a criminal offence.

      That's because he had diplomatic immunity as Canada's high commissioner to the United Kingdom when the incident allegedly occurred in 2013. 

      Through a spokesperson, Campbell has insisted that a Canadian government investigation found there was no merit to the groping complaint.

      According to the Telegraph newspaper, Scotland Yard is investigating.

      As a result of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, diplomats enjoy immunity from prosecution in foreign countries where they're stationed.

      Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has given no indication whether she's prepared to waive Gordon Campbell's diplomatic immunity if this becomes an issue.
      Chrystia Freeland

      Diplomatic immunity is a hot issue in U.K.

      In December, the BBC reported that one unnamed embassy official was accused of two rapes, yet he was never put on trial. 

      Instead, he was expelled after his home country declined to waive diplomatic immunity, which would have allowed him to be charged.

      In 2017, there was another case of attempted rape, as well as cases of sexual assault and blackmail, where no charges were laid against diplomats in the U.K.

      In a written statement, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt revealed the existence of "12 serious and significant offences allegedly committed by people entitled to diplomatic or international organisation–related immunity in the United Kingdom" in 2017.

      "We define serious offences as those which could, in certain circumstances, carry a penalty of 12 months’ imprisonment or more," Hunt wrote.

      In these types of cases, the U.K. government asks the relevant foreign government to waive diplomatic immunity, according to Hunt.

      "For the most serious offences, and when a relevant waiver has not been granted, we request the immediate withdrawal of the diplomat," Hunt declared.

      Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has not clarified if Canada would be willing to waive Campbell's diplomatic immunity, should the complaint be deemed worthy of prosecution.

      However, her ministry has issued a statement saying it "takes any allegations of sexual assault and harassment extremely seriously".

      "This kind of alleged misconduct in the workplace is absolutely unacceptable,” Global Affairs Canada said.