11:50, January 28 476 0 theguardian.com

2020-01-28 11:50:03
For Prince Andrew and Anne Sacoolas, the law is just an obstacle to navigate

Be ye never so high, as the old legal saying goes, the law is above you. Unless, perhaps, you’re just high enough.

For two high-profile cases are now shaking faith in the system on both sides of the Atlantic. On one side sits Anne Sacoolas, the wife of a diplomat stationed at a US listening base in Northamptonshire, who flew back home to the US in a hurry last year after being involved in a car crash in which 19-year-old Harry Dunn died. She is resisting all attempts to extradite her.

And on the other is Prince Andrew, who was this week accused of offering “zero cooperation” with inquiries into his friend Jeffrey Epstein, despite being contacted by both the FBI and prosecutors investigating the latter’s alleged involvement in sex trafficking. The Queen’s second son is hardly busy at the moment, having been retired from royal duties after an excruciating Newsnight interview about all this, but apparently hasn’t responded to appeals to share anything he might have learned about Epstein. So now lawyers for Epstein’s victims are threatening to subpoena the prince if he ever visits the US again, just as lawyers for the Dunn family are exploring options for getting Sacoolas arrested if she ever leaves the country.

If all this actually happens, then the freedom of both would in some ways be restricted – no more overseas postings for the Sacoolas family, and probably no return to public life for the prince – but each would remain untouched, at least so long as they don’t get on a plane. If this is a kind of prison, it’s an unbelievably luxurious one. And therein lies the problem, which is that all this fuels a sense that what would apply to you or me doesn’t apply to people with the right status or protection; that the rich and powerful can get away with things that others do not.

Unlike Sacoolas, the prince is of course being treated like a potential witness rather than a suspect (he denies sleeping with Virginia Roberts, who says she was abused by Epstein and expected to sleep with his powerful friends on demand when she was 17). He’s not compelled to cooperate, although one would hope that like any of us he might feel compassion for Epstein’s victims and want to do whatever he could to help them obtain justice.

But if Andrew were prepared to engage, no matter how undignified the process may become, then he would be sending a powerful message that not only is nobody above the rule of law but that we all have moral responsibilities that go beyond it. All the Dunn family really have left is a hope that, even at this late stage, Sacoolas will do the decent thing. When the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, raises their case with his US counterpart, Mike Pompeo, again this week, it would be nice to think his American counterpart couldn’t point accusingly at the prince in return.