British authorities cancel arrest warrant for airman due to lack of jurisdiction
April 26, 2008
British court officials have canceled an arrest warrant for an American airman, a British prosecutor said Friday.
The Northampton Magistrates’ Court issued the warrant Monday after Airman 1st Class Frank McDonald did not show up for a court hearing related to a 2006 incident in which he helped detain a peace activist who had broken into RAF Croughton. The activist, Lindis Percy, 66, is seeking to prosecute McDonald and two Ministry of Defence policemen for allegedly roughing her up when taking her into custody.
But the court withdrew the warrant on Wednesday after discovering the Air Force had issued paperwork in late February that states McDonald was exercising his military duties when he took action against Percy.
The “certificate” submitted into court by the Air Force “creates a presumption that Mr. McDonald is not within the jurisdiction of the U.K. court system,” said prosecutor Lawrence English, with the Crown Prosecution Service in Northampton. “The courts took the view that it was a mistake to issue (the warrant.)”
But that doesn’t mean the case has been thrown out, he said. The court could decide to take up the matter if there is evidence that proves McDonald was not acting within his duties or if the Air Force “decides not to prosecute” the airman, English said.
Air Force officials would not disclose whether McDonald’s role in the incident had been investigated for excessive force by the military.
Another hearing to determine if the case will move forward in the British court system is scheduled for May 6 in Northampton.
McDonald, a Security Forces airman with the 422nd Air Base Squadron at Croughton, could not be reached for comment Friday.
“We really don’t want to get into specifics of what’s going on,” said 3rd Air Force spokesman Maj. John Haynes. “We think it’s more appropriate for them to be addressing it since it’s their process and their country.”