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Harry and Meghan lose court battle to keep UK security protection

By Sarah May
|
May 24, 2023

In a significant blow to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle – also known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex – a judge in the U.K. has rejected their request for a judicial review of the Home Office's decision to deny them the option of paying for armed police protection when visiting Britain, as the BBC reports.

The dispute stems from the fact that Harry's security arrangements were necessarily altered by his and his wife's relocation to the United States and their relinquishment of the status they enjoyed as so-called “working members” of the royal family.

Harry's Bid Declined

The London High Court's rejection of Harry's desired judicial review comes in one of two cases he has initiated against the Home Office for disallowing him to pay for armed security services on his own accord, according to the New York Times.

It was back in 2020 that the Sussexes stepped down as senior, “working” royals, ultimately making their home in California, where they are able to secure armed protective services as needed.

However, when the couple travels to the U.K., their American security personnel are not permitted to carry weapons, creating a scenario Harry contends is insufficient to meet the unique needs of his family.

The Home Office, for its part, stood in opposition to the concept of wealthy or privileged individuals being afforded the opportunity to “buy” enhanced security from police, as the BBC noted.

Hearing Ends in Loss

The rejection of Harry's arguments in favor of judicial review came after a one-day hearing that occurred last week in which his lawyers took issue with the manner in which the Executive Committee for the Protection of Royalty and Public Figures (RAVEC) determined that he would no longer enjoy armed security in Britain.

Harry's legal team asserted, “RAVEC has exceeded its authority, its power, because it doesn't have the power to make this decision in the first place,” suggesting that legislation had provided that payment could be made for “special police services” and deemed the concept “not inconsistent with the public interest.”

The Home Office countered by making a clear distinction between the potential hire of “specialist officers as bodyguards,” as Harry seemed to desire, and the allocation of funds used to pay for additional security to oversee large public events such as soccer matches.

The Metropolitan Police asserted that it would be wrong to place officers in jeopardy simply because a fee was paid “by a private individual” and that RAVEC had concluded that it would be bad policy to allow the wealthy to purchase security in this way, and the court agreed.

Bad Sign for Sussexes

As the Daily Beast pointed out, the demand on which the court ruled this week was part of a wider attempt by Harry to secure the right to high-level security while in Britain because of what he has referred to as “inherited risk,”

While the remainder of his pending claims is not impacted by Tuesday's decision, legal experts opined to the outlet that it does not bode well for Harry's future prospects in this realm.

Media lawyer Mark Stephens suggested that “the writing is on the wall for this case now,” given that the Home Office won the day with its position that permitting Harry and similarly situated people to purchase police protection would pull law enforcement officers from their critical work and weaken the public's trust.

If Stephens and others are correct that there is a strong likelihood that Harry will not prevail in the wider arguments he is currently making, the Daily Beast reports that he may find himself on the hook for his legal costs as well as those borne by the government during the course of the litigation – a sum the Daily Mail has estimated could top $640,000.

Expenses, Criticisms Mount

Whether the Sussexes would be able to cover the eye-watering legal bills for which they could find themselves liable is an open question, but according to the Daily Beast, the couple is likely nowhere near as flush with funds as outward appearances might suggest.

Not only is Harry enmeshed in the security-related litigation, but he is also pursuing two phone-hacking cases and a libel action, and though he and his wife have reportedly signed high-dollar book and streaming deals, Tina Brown, founding editor of the Daily Beast, says they do not have a fraction of the resources of their new California neighbors.

Brown noted last year, “It's not very pleasant to be a D-list celebrity who, for them, doesn't have enough money. It's a wholly different game to be with those super-rich people. In Montecito, where they live, their $14 million mansion is a humble cottage compared to what these other people have.”

Now, in the wake of what many view as an embarrassing incident in which the Sussexes claimed to have experienced a “near catastrophic” high-speed chase through the streets of Manhattan due to aggressive paparazzi – an account that even New York Mayor Eric Adams has called into question – it could be that Harry and Meghan have finally gotten too far over their skis -- both financially and reputationally -- to achieve their seemingly lofty aims.