Police are not 'private bodyguards for the wealthy,' Prince Harry told as he brings legal challenge over his UK security

16 May 2023, 19:08 | Updated: 17 May 2023, 05:43

Prince Harry wants to be able to pay for police protection while in the UK
Prince Harry wants to be able to pay for police protection while in the UK. Picture: Getty

By Asher McShane

The Duke of Sussex has been told it is not “appropriate” to allow wealthy people to “buy” armed police security - after a ruling that he couldn’t have the ‘same degree’ of protection after stepping down as a working royal.

Prince Harry is attempting to bring a second legal challenge against the Home Office over his security arrangements when in the UK.

He is seeking approval from the High Court for a judicial review over a decision that he should not be allowed to pay privately for a specially-trained Met police security detail while in the country.

Harry's lawyers argue that the ruling currently in place shouldn’t prevent him from paying for officers out of his own pocket.

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At a hearing on Tuesday, a judge was asked by Harry's legal team to allow the duke to bring a case over decisions taken by the Home Office and the Executive Committee for the Protection of Royalty and Public Figures (Ravec) in December 2021 and February 2022.

The Home Office, opposing Harry's claim, said Ravec considered it was "not appropriate" for wealthy people to "buy" protective security when it had decided that "the public interest does not warrant" someone receiving such protection on a publicly funded basis.

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Robert Palmer KC, representing the home secretary, said the committee also considered that “it was not appropriate to support an outcome whereby wealthy individuals could ‘buy’ protective security from specialist police officers (potentially including armed officers).”

He added: “That would be precisely the effect of the [duke’s] claim.”

Lawyers for the Met Police, an interested party in the case, said Ravec had been "reasonable" in finding "it is wrong for a policing body to place officers in harm's way upon payment of a fee by a private individual".

The court was told the bid for the legal action to continue was related to an earlier claim brought by the duke against the Home Office after he was told he would no longer be given the "same degree" of personal protective security when visiting the UK.

Harry wants to be able to pay for police protection, despite an earlier decision that he was not entitled to taxpayer-funded specialist protection
Harry wants to be able to pay for police protection, despite an earlier decision that he was not entitled to taxpayer-funded specialist protection. Picture: Getty

A full hearing in that earlier challenge, which also focuses on Ravec's decision-making and for which Harry secured permission to continue last summer, is yet to be held.

The court was told today by Harry's lawyers that the Home Office delegated an "issue of principle" to Ravec over "whether an individual whose position had been determined by Ravec not to justify protective security should be permitted to receive protective security but to reimburse the public purse for the cost of that security provision".

Ravec later concluded that "individuals should not be permitted to privately fund protective security", the judge was told.

Shaheed Fatima KC, for Harry, said: "Ravec has exceeded its authority, its power, because it doesn't have the power to make this decision in the first place."

In written arguments, the barrister said Ravec's decision was inconsistent with legislation that allows the "'chief officer of police' to provide 'special police services' subject to payment".

She added: "The principal 'disadvantage' that is relied upon by Ravec - that allowing payment for protective security is contrary to the public interest and will undermine public confidence in the Metropolitan Police Service - cannot be reconciled with ... the fact that Parliament has expressly allowed for the payment for such services."

She added: "By creating that discretion, Parliament has clearly decided that in principle, payment for policing is not inconsistent with the public interest or public confidence in the Metropolitan Police Service."

The barrister continued: "Ravec has not provided any principled or rational basis for drawing a distinction between the provision of protective security for those individuals within the Ravec cohort, who, according to the funding decision, are not permitted to privately fund protective security, and other private individuals, who could privately fund protective security, by making a request to the chief officer of police."

Ms Fatima also argued that Ravec's decision was "unreasonable" and that the duke was not given any opportunity to make representations to the committee.

Matthew Butt KC, for the Met, said it was the only force capable of providing the protective security of the kind in the case, deployed via the Royal and Specialist Protection (RaSP) Command, when Ravec deemed it was in the public interest.

Noting the "unique risks" of such work, he added: "It cannot be right that officers are expected to present themselves and expose themselves to that level of risk, not in the public interest but because a policing body is to be financially compensated".

Robert Palmer KC, representing the Home Office, said the funding decision related to protective security requiring a "very unique set of skills and tactics and training being made specifically available for an individual" and was not about extra policing for events such as football matches, a marathon or celebrity weddings.

Mr Palmer said the decision did not effect Harry's ability to ask the police to support a particular event, but said "it is not just a question of you can buy what you like".

"This is a specialist resource not ordinarily provided," he said.

In written arguments, Mr Palmer said the funding decision was "rational and well within the permissible range of decisions open to Ravec as the relevant expert body".

He said the decision was not unlawful, nor beyond the committee's powers, and that it was "simply the setting of a policy position".

Mr Palmer said the unanimous decision of Ravec - whose membership includes senior Home Office officials, senior officers of the Met Police and senior officials of the royal household - was "correct" that there was "significant legal uncertainty" over how the provision of protective security was covered by the law.

The barrister added that there was "no legal authority for the proposition that the concept of 'special police services' encompasses the use of police officers as private bodyguards for the wealthy".

He said "apparent agreements" by police forces said to be under a policing law included "no example remotely comparable to the present issue: ie the deployment of specialist officers as bodyguards to an individual".

Mr Palmer said Ravec was "not required to offer" Harry the chance to make representations over the funding decision, adding that they would "have been highly likely to have made no substantial difference in any event”.

The hearing before Mr Justice Chamberlain concluded on Tuesday, with the judge saying he hoped to provide a written ruling "within the next week or so".

It comes amid an ongoing High Court trial involving the duke, in which he is bringing a contested claim against Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) over allegations of unlawful information gathering.

Harry is also waiting for rulings over whether similar cases against publishers Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL) and News Group Newspapers (NGN) can continue.

A judgment is also expected over the duke's libel claim against ANL - publisher of the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday - over an article on his case against the Home Office.

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