Foreign diplomats avoided 11 serious criminal charges last year, including people trafficking and taking indecent photographs of children.
Figures published by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office today show that “diplomatic immunity” had been invoked to avoid charges for the offences, which could otherwise have landed the perpetrators in prison for more than 12 months.
Saudi Arabian nationals were responsible for two instances of people trafficking, relating to forced labour and domestic servitude.
Mexican officials claimed diplomatic immunity against alleged offences of causing a child aged 13 to 15 to look at an image of sexual activity, and taking “an indecent photograph/pseudo-photograph of a child” while also using threatening, abusive and/or insulting language.
The US, Kazakhstan and China were each responsible for one instance of drink-driving during 2015, while a Gabonese national avoided a charge of actual bodily harm.
In a written statement published today, foreign secretary Boris Johnson said: "Around 22,500 people are entitled to diplomatic immunity in the United Kingdom and the majority of diplomats abide by UK law. The number of alleged serious crimes committed by members of the diplomatic community in the UK is proportionately low."
He added: "We take all allegations of illegal activity seriously. When instances of alleged criminal conduct are brought to our attention by the police, we ask the relevant foreign government to waive diplomatic immunity where appropriate. For the most serious offences, and when a relevant waiver has not been granted, we seek the immediate withdrawal of the diplomat."
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said: “The Foreign and Commonwealth Office must clarify whether these people have been prosecuted, whether their diplomatic immunity is still in place and what their current status is.
“Someone committing these sorts of offences must not be allowed to walk free back in their home country- it is not enough that they are simply withdrawn from the UK. The victims of these crimes must have justice, which can only happen if the perpetrators face proper prosecution."