The appeal hearing of Brigadier Priyanka Fernando


On the 2nd of December 2020, the Royal court of Appeal heard the appeal of the convicted Brigadier for his offences committed against protestors and demonstrators outside the Sri Lankan High Commission on the 4th of February 2018.


Last year he was found guilty by Westminster Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot who said that his actions were really rather disreputable, he was called back to Sri Lanka due to this and his body language appeared to be arrogant & intimidating. She also said he would have also known his actions would be alarming at the very least. He was fined and ordered to pay more than £4000 in fines.


At today’s appeal hearing brought by the defendant’s legal team it is very clear from the get go that Mr PF is relying once again on diplomatic immunity to white wash the crime he committed on the 4th of February 2018 on British Soil.


The Claimant’s counsel started with his opening remarks touching base on how the previous judge had come to the conclusion with regard to PF’s offence. The question of whether residual immunity covers the actions of the Brigadier was  explored by Claimant’s counsel. The articles revolving around the Vienna Convention were once again explored to shine light on the duties of the Brigadier, whether he felt threatened, was his duty to oversee the protestors, identify potential rebels, ensure the safety of the embassy and then to report back to the authorities in Sri Lanka.


Peter Carter, the defendant’s counsel discussed the summons sent to the Brigadier in great detail. He swiftly moved into discussing the functions of the Brigadier and whether he had acted outside his functional duties. Extensive immunity in article 31 and residual immunity are the defendants defence against the death threats aimed at protestors and demonstrators. Also according to Defendant’s counsel PF was sent on a mission and the acts committed formed within his functional duties. This makes one question what the actual mission was or still is, if a gesture of throat slitting  part of his mission, what is this mission?


Justice Mcgowan asked whether the throat slitting was part of his functions to which the answer was no. Then was the throat slitting (sign) done for personal gratification? This is something that should not be overlooked. In other words, defendants counsel relies on the residual diplomatic immunity for the illegal actions of the brigadier but according to Justice McGowan if there is a criminal overlay then there is no residual immunity.


Defendant’s counsel also relied on the technicalities around the first summons and the summons that followed. He also stated Second summons were sent after 6 months, which meant it was sent outside the time limit therefore the summons issued amounted to an abuse of process and the summons were issued when pf did not have diplomatic status. The issue of jurisdiction and where the authority for it lies were also explored.This feels like the defendant’s counsel is relying on technical faults to get the defendant off the hook. 


It is no surprise the common man will have to fight tooth and nail to attain justice. When a defendant’s counsel panders on technicalities within the law, is it not obvious that the Brigadier is actually guilty of his actions? Is the defendant relying on arguments made by his queen’s counsel  who has issues with how the summons were sent and whether there was an abuse of process? 


The judges have reserved their decision and have indicated they will provide this just before or after Christmas. 


Tamil solidarity has been supporting the case against PF from the very beginning. We at TS will keep you informed on the progress of this case in due course.