The defence of residual diplomatic immunity did not apply to the throat-slitting gesture made by Brig Priyanka Fernando, former Defence Attache at the Sri Lanka High Commission in London, as it was not a part of his official duties, a judge at the Westminster Magistrate’s Court decided this week.
However, the withdrawal of the arrest warrant issued against him still stands and court was adjourned till March 15 to consider further arguments.
Brig Fernando, who had only just arrived for his posting in London, made the gesture at pro-LTTE protesters outside the High Commission on February 4 last year. Lawyers argued on his behalf that he was covered by residual immunity which is what applies when a diplomat’s posting comes to an end.
When the case was taken up for hearing before Westminster Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot on Friday, Barrister Nicholas Wayne, appearing for Brigadier Fernando, said the officer’s gesture at Tamil protesters was part of the 10-part job description of Sri Lanka’s military attaché in London, which included safeguarding the High Commission premises during any protests.
Ms. Arbuthnot concluded, however, that Brig Fernando’s gesture was not covered by diplomatic immunity while making the gesture.
On January 21, he had been tried in absentia and convicted of causing “harassment, alarm and distress” to three complainants who brought a private prosecution.
The Magistrate reopened the case. And an arrest warrant issued on the Brigadier was revoked in order for the court to consider the status of diplomatic immunity.