The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has welcomed the public release of the Whitehead report.
“We accept all of the findings in the Whitehead report, and have worked quickly to ensure that the recommendations made by Dr Whitehead have been fully understood and implemented,” said Chief Executive Brook Barrington. “We have apologised unreservedly to the Government, and to the victim.
“The report identifies shortcomings with process and judgement, and in my view not enough attention was paid to the interests of the victim, but there was no evidence that anyone in the Ministry sought deliberately to mislead Ministers or circumvent process,” said Mr Barrington.
“Nonetheless, a number of lessons needed to be learned to ensure a clear and consistent process is applied in all cases, and to reduce the opportunity for discretion, for example:
- An explicit threshold for when to seek a waiver
- Standard communications with other countries to avoid confusion
- Avoidance of personal commentary in emails
- A more systematic team approach on immunity waivers
- Better processes to inform the CEO and Ministers.
“These lessons have been learnt,” he said. “As a result there are tighter processes and management oversight around diplomatic immunity cases and clear provisions for ensuring Ministers are kept informed. As a matter of explicit policy we will seek a waiver of diplomatic immunity for all serious crimes where the Police determine that a prosecution is warranted.
“The Ministry previously acknowledged its mishandling of this case and issued an apology in July 2014 for the distress it may have caused the victim,” said Mr Barrington. “We also apologised to the government for the mishandling the case. I have written to Ms Billingsley to endorse those sentiments and to again offer our sincere apologies for the distress she suffered.
“Errors were made, and the result was a serious, if unintended, consequence. What needed to be done was to put policies and processes in place to limit the opportunity for discretion and ensure a standard and robust approach to all such future issues. This has been done.”
We have also proactively released material associated with the request for waiver of diplomatic immunity on the Ministry’s website.