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Prince Harry loses case over being stripped of UK security detail

Harry claimed in the lawsuit that he and his family were endangered when visiting the U.K. because of hostility toward him and his wife Meghan.
Prince Harry loses case over being stripped of UK security detail
Posted at 12:02 PM, Feb 28, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-28 14:02:46-05

Prince Harry's fight for publicly funded protection was rejected Wednesday by a London judge who said the U.K. government didn't act irrationally when it stripped him of security privileges after he quit working as a member of the royal family and moved to the United States. Harry plans to appeal the decision.

High Court Judge Peter Lane said the February 2020 decision to provide "bespoke" security to the Duke of Sussex on an as-needed basis wasn't unlawful, irrational or unjustified.

"Insofar as the case-by-case approach may otherwise have caused difficulties, they have not been shown to be such as to overcome the high hurdle so as to render the decision-making irrational," Lane wrote in the 51-page ruling that was censored throughout to protect identities and security arrangements for Harry and other public figures.

Harry said he planned to appeal the ruling and keep challenging the decision made by the group known by the acronym of its former name, the Royal and VIP Executive Committee, or RAVEC, a spokesperson said.

"The duke is not asking for preferential treatment, but for a fair and lawful application of RAVEC's own rules, ensuring that he receives the same consideration as others in accordance with RAVEC's own written policy," the spokesperson said in a statement.

Harry claimed in the lawsuit that he and his family were endangered when visiting the U.K. because of hostility toward him and his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, on social media and relentless hounding by news media.

His lawyer argued that RAVEC, which is made up of members of the royal family staff, the Metropolitan Police and several government offices, acted irrationally and failed to follow its own policies that should have required a risk analysis of the duke's safety.

A government lawyer said Harry had been treated fairly and was still provided protection on some visits, citing a security detail that guarded him in June 2021 when he was chased by photographers after attending an event with seriously ill children at Kew Gardens in west London.

The committee considered the wider impact that the "tragic death" of his mother, the late Princess Diana, had on the nation, and in making its decision gave greater weight to the "likely significant public upset were a successful attack" on her son to happen, attorney James Eadie said.

The Home Office was pleased with the ruling and was considering its next steps, a spokesperson said. It didn't say what those steps might be, but it could seek reimbursement of its legal fees for prevailing in court.

Harry, 39, the younger son of King Charles III, has broken ranks with royal family tradition in his willingness to go to court to challenge the government and take on tabloids in his effort to hold publishers accountable for hounding him throughout his life.

SEE MORE: Court denies Prince Harry's right to hire British police protection

The lawsuit was one of six cases Harry has brought in the High Court, including three related to his security arrangements that have either failed or been dropped.

Harry failed to persuade a different judge last year that he should be able to privately pay for London's police force to guard him when he comes to town. A judge denied that offer after a government lawyer argued that officers shouldn't be used as "private bodyguards for the wealthy."

He recently withdrew a libel case against the Daily Mail over an article that said he tried to hide his efforts to continue receiving government-funded security. Harry dropped the case after a judge ruled he was more likely to lose at trial, because the publisher could show that statements issued on his behalf were misleading and that the February 2022 article reflected an "honest opinion" and wasn't libelous.

His other three cases have shown more promise in taking on newspaper publishers that he said hacked phones and used private investigators to snoop on his life for sensational news stories.

In his first case to go to trial, Harry won a big victory in December after a judge found phone hacking was "widespread and habitual" at Mirror Group Newspapers.

He won a judgment in court and recently settled remaining allegations that were due to go to trial. While the payout was undisclosed, he was to be reimbursed for all his legal fees and was due to receive an interim payment of more than $500,000.

The publishers of The Sun and Daily Mail face trials on similar allegations.

While the security lawsuit was against the Home Office, which oversees U.K. national security, it also marked a challenge to palace insiders, who are members of the committee now known as the Executive Committee for the Protection of Royalty and Public Figures.

Harry said he hadn't initially been told the composition of the panel and only later learned it included royal family staff.

He argued that Edward Young, the assistant private secretary to the late Queen Elizabeth II, shouldn't have been on the committee because of "significant tensions" between the two men.

The government argued that any conflict between Harry and royal staff was irrelevant and the committee was entitled to its decision, because he had relinquished his role as a working member of the family.

Harry has been estranged with members of his family, including his older brother, Prince William, heir to the throne. Any rift was further exacerbated by his 2023 memoir "Spare," which recounted sibling grievances including a time he said his brother ripped his necklace and knocked him onto a dog bowl.

Harry said in the book that the British media vilified him and Meghan compared to the favorable treatment given to William and Kate, Prince and Princess of Wales. He accused palace officials of lying to protect his elder brother.

When Harry flew home earlier this month for a brief visit with his father, following the king's cancer diagnosis, he didn't meet up with his brother. In an interview with "Good Morning America" in Canada a week later, he hinted that illness could help reunite his family.


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