The Met Police isn’t for hire when you feel like it Harry’: Outrage at Duke of Sussex’s legal threat to ministers in row over his security as he demands protection when he and Meghan are in the UK
Prince Harry faced outrage yesterday over his threat of legal action against Her Majesty’s Government in an extraordinary security row. The Duke of Sussex is seeking a judicial review of Home Secretary Priti Patel’s decision to strip him of his UK police protection team, claiming it is too dangerous to visit the UK without Scotland Yard bodyguards.
Last night there was anger at the unprecedented legal threat against his grandmother’s government as security sources hit back saying: ‘Scotland Yard is not available for hire’. As exclusively revealed by The Mail on Sunday, lawyers acting for Harry, who stepped down from royal duties two years ago, have written a ‘pre-action protocol’ letter to the Home Office, threatening to go to the High Court if his family are not provided with security while they are in Britain, which they have offered to pay for.
The ultimatum is the culmination of nearly two years of discussions with ministers about his security arrangements, the Daily Mail can reveal.Legal representatives say the duke wants to fund the security himself, rather than ask taxpayers to foot the bill.But experts pointed out that Scotland Yard does not have a pool of specially trained officers sitting idle, adding: ‘You can’t just hire the services of Scotland Yard as and when you feel like it.’
Harry, Meghan and their family would automatically be protected by royal security if they were to visit the Queen or were in residence at their Frogmore home, which is on the Queen’s private Windsor Estate.The issue would be if they wanted to undertake potentially lucrative private business, charitable or social activities elsewhere.
Insiders said it would unprecedented for the judiciary to get involved in matters of royal protection, which are decided by an independent committee and signed off by Miss Patel.But his lawyers hope a High Court judge will overturn a pivotal review by the Royal and VIP Executive Committee (RAVEC), sparked by the couple’s move to America in 2020.
The committee, which determines royal security, is made up of the Home Office, the Metropolitan Police’s royalty protection command and palace officials.Buckingham Palace said yesterday that it was ‘a matter for the Home Office and Sussexes’, and that they never commented on security matters.
However, one royal insider, with more than a hint of exasperation, said: ‘Once again, when it comes to the Sussexes, it has to be pointed out that you can’t have it both ways.’They have chosen to leave the institution – and the country – and live their lives as private individuals.‘They can’t just pick and choose which bits they think should apply to them.’ Another source said the offer to pay for the use of officers while they were here was ‘immaterial, as I am sure they know’.
They pointed out that all of the police who had been assigned to them when they were working members of the Royal Family had either left the force when the Sussexes settled in the US, or were moved to other duties.
‘The Met does not just have a pool of specially trainers officers on tap for whenever they decide to just pop over the Atlantic,’ they said.Ultimately, the decision to strip Harry and his wife of their taxpayer-funded security was taken by Miss Patel on the basis of the committee’s recommendations.Since then Harry has made no secret of his fury, telling Oprah Winfrey last March that he ‘pushed back’ at the decision.
The row was reignited when the duke briefly returned from LA last year for the July 1 unveiling of the Diana, Princess of Wales memorial statue.On June 30 he also met seriously ill young people at a WellChild event in Kew Gardens, west London.
He claims his American security team, who are not allowed to bear arms in the UK or access Scotland Yard’s intelligence systems, were ‘compromised’ after he was chased by photographers.In a statement released after The Mail on Sunday broke the story, the duke’s lawyers said: ‘The goal for Prince Harry has been simple – to ensure the safety of himself and his family while in the UK so his children can know his home country.
‘During his last visit to the UK in July 2021 – to unveil a statue in honour of his late mother – his security was compromised due to the absence of police protection, whilst leaving a charity event.‘After another attempt at negotiations was also rejected, he sought a judicial review in September 2021 to challenge the decision-making behind the security procedures.’
Yesterday former head of royalty protection at Scotland Yard, Dai Davies, said: ‘You can’t just hire the services of Scotland Yard as and when you feel like it.‘These are highly trained personal protection officers with access to sensitive intelligence, it is not like when football clubs pay for officers to be at football games.’
Harry has indicated he is unwilling to bring son Archie and baby daughter Lilibet, who is yet to meet her great-grandmother the Queen, to visit from the US without proper protection.‘The UK will always be Prince Harry’s home and a country he wants his wife and children to be safe in,’ the duke’s legal representative said.
The monarch is understood to have been made aware of her grandson’s action, which is thought to be the first time a member of the Royal Family has brought a case against her government.A Government spokesman 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.’ Scotland Yard said the Met does not comment on royal security.