What is an Interpol Red Notice and what are the practical implications for Anne Sacoolas?

12 May 2020

In a surprising development, Interpol has reportedly issued a Red Notice for Anne Sacoolas in relation to her alleged involvement in the death of 19 year old Harry Dunn last year.  An extradition request was made by the UK in January 2020, but the US refused to act upon it on the basis that Mrs Sacoolas enjoyed diplomatic immunity.

If the reports are correct, the publication of a Red Notice marks an escalation in the efforts to secure Mrs Sacoolas’ return to the UK. But what exactly is a Red Notice? And what will be the practical effect?

Interpol is a global organisation which brings together the police forces and investigatory authorities of its 194 member states.  It aims to facilitate the crime-fighting work of its member states through international police cooperation. A Red Notice is essentially a request by Interpol on behalf of one member state to all other member states to locate a suspect or convicted person and take steps to facilitate their surrender to the requesting state, usually through extradition proceedings. In the UK, the relevant police force (in this case, Northamptonshire Police) completes the request for a Red Notice and submits it to the Crown Prosecution Service’s Extradition Unit, where a lawyer will review the case and decide whether to approve the request. If approved, the request will be submitted to the UK’s ‘National Central Bureau’, Interpol’s representative body in the UK comprising officers from the National Crime Agency (NCA). The request will be reviewed and, if considered compliant with Interpol’s rules, the red notice will be issued.

The legal effect of a Red Notice differs between member states and not every country will treat it as a valid arrest warrant. The practical effect, however, will invariably be the same. Each member state has access to Interpol’s database and border staff will automatically be alerted if the subject of a Red Notice attempts to travel. As a result, international travel becomes extremely risky and, if attempted, is very likely to lead to the individual concerned being stopped and the requesting state being notified of their location. An extradition request will likely then follow.

In Mrs Sacoolas’ case, assuming the claim of diplomatic immunity is maintained, the Red Notice is unlikely to present her with difficulties for as long as she remains in the US. The US has made its position clear as far as honouring any extradition request from the UK is concerned. If, however, she attempts to travel to another country, problems may arise. The UK should be notified of her arrival in that country and would then be likely to submit an extradition request. Depending on the law of that country and the state of its diplomatic relations with the UK and US, it is possible that the extradition request could be acted upon and Mrs Sacoolas could find herself back in the UK. To avoid the very real risk of that happening, she is likely to stay in the US for the foreseeable future and avoid any international travel.

Further information

You may also be interested in reading our previous blog "What are Interpol Red Notices and how can you get them removed?" for further details.  Should you have any questions, please contact a member of our criminal litigation team.

We have a wealth of experience of representing clients who are subject to Red Notices and we are often instructed by high profile individuals and professionals who are targeted by political opponents and adverse parties in hostile civil litigation. We have a comprehensive understanding of the functioning of Interpol and can advise on all related issues, such as diffusion notices, deletion of Red Notice extracts from Interpol’s website and further requests for removal of a Red Notice following a negative decision.



Will Hayes is a barrister in the Criminal Litigation team and represents individuals and corporate clients in a range of criminal cases. He has represented clients in cases covering the full spectrum of general crime, cases with an international dimension and represents clients defending extradition requests and challenging Interpol Red Notices. Will has a particular interest in legal professional privilege (LPP) and has developed a comprehensive understanding of the law and its practical application.


Share insightLinkedIn Twitter Facebook Email to a friend Print

Email this page to a friend

We welcome views and opinions about the issues raised in this blog. Should you require specific advice in relation to personal circumstances, please use the form on the contact page.

Leave a comment

You may also be interested in:

Skip to content Home About Us Insights Services Contact Accessibility