Prince Harry’s legal battle: A test of royal privilege and security

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Prince Harry

6th December 2023 – (London) Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, who relocated to the United States with his wife, Meghan Markle, in 2020 after a public fallout with the royal family, is challenging the U.K.’s interior ministry and the obscure committee responsible for royal security decisions.

Prince Harry’s dispute lies in the question of who is responsible for ensuring his safety, and who bears the cost. The U.K. government’s Home Office, following his departure from royal duties and subsequent shift to the U.S. in January 2020, stripped Harry of his continual taxpayer-funded security detail. The decision was made by the Executive Committee for the Protection of Royalty and Public Figures (Ravec), a low-profile but powerful Home Office group. The committee ruled that the prince and his family no longer warranted the “same degree” of protection previously afforded during their U.K. visits.

However, in July 2022, Harry won the right to challenge the Home Office’s decision, asserting that the elimination of police protection was unjust. The prince alleged “procedural unfairness” underpinned the move.

A three-day hearing, which began on Tuesday, will hear arguments from Harry’s lawyers, stating he did not feel safe when returning to the U.K. with his wife and their two young children. They will highlight concerns about the family’s safety after being pursued by paparazzi after a London charity event.

According to written evidence, Harry’s lawyer, Shaheed Fatima K.C., argued that the prince “should be given state security due to the threats/risks he faces.” Fatima also stated that Ravec failed to consider the ‘impact’ a successful attack on the prince might have, given his royal status and public service.

Adding to the royal controversy, Harry’s legal team alleged bias by the royal-affiliated Ravec. They argued that Harry should have been allowed to make “informed representations” to the committee. They also claimed that existing disputes within the royal family complicated the issue.

However, Justice Swift, presiding over the case, rejected these claims. He concluded that although it was “arguable” whether Harry should have been allowed to directly address Ravec, he disagreed with the need for Harry to know the committee’s actual membership. He found “no evidence to support a claim that any committee member had approached decisions with a biased mindset.”

As for the government’s argument, lawyers for the Home Office defended the committee’s right to consider the duke’s security detail on a “case by case” basis. They dismissed the relevance of any discord between the prince and royal household staff.

Government lawyers have also argued that Ravec withdrew security simply because there is “no basis” for “publicly-funded security support” for the duke and duchess, given they’ve resigned from full-time duties.

The hearing will continue until Thursday, with a judgment to be delivered at a later date. The majority of the hearing will occur privately, due to the sensitivity of the case’s materials.

This legal dispute is just one of four cases currently being pursued by the 39-year-old prince in the High Court. He also has ongoing legal claims against several media conglomerates he accuses of unlawfully gathering information about him.