Harry given 'insufficient info' on security decision, court hears

Prince Harry says he was given ‘insufficient information’ over decision to change his tax-payer funded police bodyguards when he and Meghan are in the UK, High Court hears

  • The Duke of Sussex  wants to bring his children to visit from across the Atlantic
  • But he ‘does not feel safe’ under current security measures in UK, court was told
  • Harry says US private protection team doesn’t have adequate jurisdiction abroad
  • The first hearing in the case continued today at Royal Courts of Justice in London

Prince Harry received ‘insufficient information’ over a decision to change his tax-payer funded police protection when he is in the UK, the High Court has heard.

The Duke of Sussex is bringing a legal challenge against the Home Office after being told he would no longer be given the ‘same degree’ of personal protective security when visiting from the US, despite offering to pay for it himself.

He wants to bring his children to visit from across the Atlantic, but ‘does not feel safe’ when visiting under the current security arrangements, the court was previously told.

He is challenging the February 2020 decision of the Executive Committee for the Protection of Royalty and Public Figures (Ravec), which has delegated powers from the Home Secretary.

Harry is arguing that his private protection team in the US does not have adequate jurisdiction abroad or access to UK intelligence information which is needed to keep his family safe.

On Friday, the first hearing in the case continued at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, at which Harry was not present.

Prince Harry (pictured with Meghan in Brixton, south London, in 2018) received ‘insufficient information’ over a decision to change his tax-payer funded police protection when he is in the UK, the High Court has heard

The Duke of Sussex wants to bring his children to visit from across the Atlantic, but ‘does not feel safe’ when visiting under the current security arrangements, the court was previously told

During the hearing, Shaheed Fatima QC (pictured in 2019), representing the duke, provided the judge with two letters ‘on the membership of Ravec’

The preliminary proceedings, which were largely held in private, related to an application by the duke and the Home Office for some parts of court documents in the case to be kept private.

During an initial public part of Friday’s hearing, the judge, Mr Justice Swift, summarised the four grounds forming the basis of the duke’s legal challenge.

He said these included an alleged ‘over rigid application of the policy’ and a ‘failure’ to take into account ‘relevant considerations’.

The grounds also claim that conclusions reached were ‘unreasonable’ and that ‘insufficient information’ was provided in relation to the Ravec policy and ‘those involved in the Ravec decision’, the judge said.

During the hearing, Shaheed Fatima QC, representing the duke, provided the judge with two letters ‘on the membership of Ravec’.

She told court that ‘we’ve been asking about the membership’, later adding that this would relate to ‘the relevance of the claimant’s knowledge about who he was dealing with and in what capacity’.

Ms Fatima told the court that ‘we now know’ that the Cabinet Office as an ‘entity’ is a member of Ravec.

She also told the judge that the duke previously had ‘correspondence’ with Sir Mark Sedwill, a senior civil servant who served as Cabinet Secretary from April 2018 to September 2020.

Harry (pictured with Meghan in the UK in 2019) is arguing that his private protection team in the US does not have adequate jurisdiction abroad or access to UK intelligence information which is needed to keep his family safe

The duke briefly returned from Los Angeles last year for the July 1 unveiling of the Diana, Princess of Wales memorial statue with his brother Prince William (both pictured)

At the first part of the hearing held last week, the court heard that the duke considers that the UK ‘is and always will be, his home’.

Ms Fatima told the court: ‘It goes without saying that he does want to come back to see family and friends and to continue to support the charities that are so close to his heart.’

A legal representative for Harry previously said the duke wants to fund the security himself, rather than ask taxpayers to foot the bill.

In written submissions, Robert Palmer QC, for the Home Office, argued that the duke’s offer to pay for his own security was ‘irrelevant’ and that ‘personal protective security by the police is not available on a privately financed basis’.

He said Ravec had attributed to the duke ‘a form of exceptional status’ where he is considered for personal protective security by the police ‘with the precise arrangements being dependent on the reason for his presence in Great Britain and by reference to the functions he carries out when present’.

On Friday, the first hearing in the case continued at the Royal Courts of Justice (file photo above) in London, at which Harry was not present

The barrister added: ‘A case-by-case approach rationally and appropriately allows Ravec to implement a responsive approach to reflect the applicable circumstances.’

The Home Office’s written arguments also claim that Harry’s offer of funding was ‘notably not advanced to Ravec’ at the time of the duke’s visit in June 2021, or in any pre-action correspondence.

The duke briefly returned from Los Angeles last year for the July 1 unveiling of the Diana, Princess of Wales memorial statue and, the day before, on June 30, he met seriously ill children and young people at a WellChild garden party and afternoon tea in Kew Gardens, west London.

It is understood the duke’s car was chased by photographers as he left.

The duke and his wife Meghan now live in the United States with their children Archie and Lilibet after quitting as senior working royals in early 2020.

Mr Justice Swift is expected to give his ruling on the initial court proceedings, part of which may be confidential, at a later date.

What is Harry’s concern with UK security and why is he taking legal action?

Are Harry and his family covered by security arrangements currently?

He and his wife, the Duchess of Sussex, personally fund a private protection team in the US for their family.

The Sussexes have signed multimillion-pound deals with Netflix and Spotify, with Harry telling Oprah Winfrey he secured these to pay for his security.

But he and Meghan lost their taxpayer-funded police protection in the UK in the aftermath of quitting as senior working royals.

Why did they lose their taxpayer-funded security?

Their security provision was one of the key issues when the couple announced they wanted to step down in 2020.

Speaking to Winfrey during the couple’s sit-down interview in 2021, Harry said he was told that ‘due to our change of status – we would no longer be ‘official’ members of the royal family’.

He said he had been shocked by this and ‘pushed back’ on the issue, arguing that there had been no change of threat or risk to the couple.

Meghan, during the same interview, told how she had written to her husband’s family urging them not to ‘pull his security’, but had been told ‘it’s just not possible’.

At the time of announcing their stepping back from royal life in 2020, their website suggested the Home Office, through the Metropolitan Police, should continue to provide protection for the couple and Archie, their only child at the time.

Have they offered to pay for police protection in the UK themselves?

Yes. Harry wants to fund the security himself, rather than ask taxpayers to foot the bill, his legal representative said.

He first offered to personally pay for police protection in the UK for himself and his family during the so-called Sandringham summit in January 2020, but the legal representative said that offer ‘was dismissed’.

The representative added that Harry ‘remains willing to cover the cost of security, as not to impose on the British taxpayer’.

Can they use the same security team they have while in the US?

Harry’s legal representative said that while the couple personally fund a private security team for their family, ‘that security cannot replicate the necessary police protection needed whilst in the UK’.

His argument is that the US team does not have adequate jurisdiction abroad or access to UK intelligence information which is needed to keep the Sussex family safe. 

So what is Harry doing about the issue of his UK security now?

In September 2021, he filed a claim for a judicial review against the Home Office decision.

His legal team said this course of action was taken ‘after another attempt at negotiations was also rejected’.

They said the judicial review bid is an attempt to ‘challenge the decision-making behind the security procedures, in the hopes that this could be re-evaluated for the obvious and necessary protection required’.

What threats do the couple see themselves as facing in the UK? 

In a statement, the legal representative said: ‘He remains sixth in line to the throne, served two tours of combat duty in Afghanistan, and in recent years his family has been subjected to well-documented neo-Nazi and extremist threats. While his role within the Institution has changed, his profile as a member of the Royal Family has not. Nor has the threat to him and his family.’

Has the Home Office said anything about the bid for judicial review?

A Government spokesperson said: ‘The UK Government’s protective security system is rigorous and proportionate. It is our long-standing policy not to provide detailed information on those arrangements. To do so could compromise their integrity and affect individuals’ security.

‘It would also not be appropriate to comment on the detail of any legal proceedings.’

Will the couple return to the UK if the issue is not resolved in the way they would like?

A spokesperson for the duke has said that, in the absence of what they consider to be the necessary protection, ‘Prince Harry and his family are unable to return to his home’.

They insisted the UK ‘will always be Prince Harry’s home’, adding that it is ‘a country he wants his wife and children to be safe in’.

But they added: ‘With the lack of police protection, comes too great a personal risk.’   

 

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