Prince Harry Loses High Court Challenge Over Security Downgrade

Prince Harry lost a long-running legal battle over the downgrading of his security in Britain, as a High Court judge ruled on Wednesday that the British government was entitled to change the level of police protection for a member of the royal family who was no longer carrying out official duties.

In a 51-page ruling, the judge, Peter Lane, rejected Harry’s challenge to the decision, declaring that Britain’s Home Office, through its Executive Committee for the Protection of Royalty and Public Figures, had not been procedurally unfair or irrational in changing his level of security.

It was a stinging setback for Harry, who has waged a series of legal battles on both his security and privacy. Earlier this month, he won at least 400,000 pounds ($506,000) in damages from the publisher of The Daily Mirror, a London tabloid, for “widespread and habitual” hacking of his cellphone voice mail.

Harry lost his automatic taxpayer-funded protection from the Metropolitan Police when he and his wife, Meghan, stepped back from royal duties in 2020, eventually relocating to Southern California. The prince has argued that he cannot safely visit Britain with his family without that higher level of protection. Last May, in a parallel legal case, he lost a bid to pay for police protection out of his own pocket.

In the United States, Harry and Meghan are protected by bodyguards who are licensed to carry weapons. But traveling in Britain poses a particular challenge because their private security guards are not allowed to carry guns.

The couple’s security came under a spotlight last year, when Harry and Meghan, along with Meghan’s mother, Doria Ragland, were swarmed by photographers after they left an award ceremony in Midtown Manhattan.

A spokeswoman for the couple described “a near catastrophic car chase at the hands of a ring of highly aggressive paparazzi,” though a taxi driver who transported the three said that there had been no car chase and no reason for his passengers to be frightened, even if they were clearly alarmed.

At the time, a spokesman for the New York Police Department said that the photographers had posed a challenge but that the three had arrived at their destination on the Upper East Side without “reported collisions, summonses, injuries, or arrests.”

It emerged on Wednesday, however, that lawyers for Harry had submitted a copy of a letter from the New York Police Department’s head of intelligence, John B. Hart, to the High Court, which said that after a subsequent investigation, the police concluded that the paparazzi had behaved recklessly that night. There was sufficient evidence, Mr. Hart wrote, in a letter dated Dec. 6, 2023, to arrest two individuals for reckless endangerment.

“They had operated vehicles, scooters and bicycles in a manner that forced the security team, which included the N.Y.P.D. lead car, to take evasive actions on several occasions and a circuitous route to avoid being struck by pursuing vehicles or trapped on side blocks,” the judge wrote, citing the letter, which Mr. Hart sent to Richard Smith, the Metropolitan Police’s commander of royalty and specialist protection.

Mr. Hart said the incident had prompted the N.Y.P.D. to change security procedures for the couple in later visits to New York, though the details were redacted in the judgment, as were details about their protection in Britain.

The ruling on Harry’s security came amid a fresh round of speculation about the well-being of senior members of the royal family. On Tuesday, Prince William abruptly withdrew from a memorial service for King Constantine of Greece, his godfather, citing a “personal matter.”

William’s wife, Catherine, has been convalescing from abdominal surgery in January. An official at Kensington Palace, where the couple have their offices, said on Tuesday that Catherine was doing well, but did not elaborate.

King Charles III, who is undergoing treatment for an undisclosed form of cancer, also missed the service at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. Queen Camilla stood in for her husband. Officials at Buckingham Palace said William’s cancellation was not related to the health of his father.

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