‘The Met Police isn’t for hire’: Backlash at Prince Harry’s legal threat to ministers in row over his security as he demands protection when he is in UK
- Prince Harry is to take legal action against government over removal of security
- If case proceeds, it will lead to High Court battle between Ministers and Harry
- Legal threat met with backlash after royals stepped down two years ago
- Harry says he would cover cost of protection rather than burden the taxpayer
- Experts say ‘you can’t just hire services of Scotland Yard when you feel like it’
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.’
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle pictured together at the British High Commissioner residency in Johannesburg in October 2019
Princess Diana pictured alongside her bodyguard Ken Wharf during a visit to Oxford in November 1990
The Duchess of Sussex pictured as she arrives at a school in Harlem along with security
Prince Harry is taking legal action against the Government over its decision to remove his security (above, Harry and Meghan with bodyguards in New Zealand in 2018)
What it really costs to guard Sussexes
THE Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s security team in Canada was made up of at least six £60,000-a-year Scotland Yard protection officers.
But experts say the true cost of each officer would have been closer to £100,000 a year when taking into consideration overtime, flights back and forth to the UK, pension contributions and living expenses.
The couple spent more than three months in Canada before moving to California in March 2020 when they are reported to have hired top-of-the-range security firm Gavin de Becker and Associates (GDBA), used by A-listers including Jeff Bezos, Tom Hanks and Madonna.
The team from GDBA – described as a ‘secret service for famous people’ – is rumoured to cost about £7,000 per day, or £2.5million a year. Harry and Meghan are likely to have been provided a team of six bodyguards, which could include former intelligence officers from the FBI and CIA, who work in rotation, with four on duty by day and two at night.
The couple’s American security would have no jurisdiction in the UK or access to intelligence information.
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.
Why can’t he understand that giving up his royal role means losing his privileges?
By Ken Wharfe for The Daily Mail
Police protection should not be for sale. Prince Harry has an outrageous cheek, demanding a full royal security detail to be reinstated when he visits the UK.
For the Queen and her government to accede to his demand and set this precedent is unthinkable.
Harry is now a private citizen, domiciled in a foreign count ry – entirely by his own choice. None of the royals wanted this to happen, least of all his father and brother, but it has.
If he is granted the services of the Metropolitan’s royal protection squad, for which he has magnanimously offered to pay, every visiting Hollywood star and wealthy celebrity may as well expect the same privileges.
Britain would face the humiliating prospect of hiring out our highly trained and armed officers to any reality television narcissist or tinpot dictator’s children who can foot the bill.
The Duke of Sussex made a decision two years ago to leave the UK and live a new life with his wife on the other side of the Atlantic.
He thought at first he would be able to keep one foot in the Royal Family, hanging on to his military honours and charity patronages as well as his status as His Royal Highness.
The Queen immediately disabused him of that fantasy. When he left, he knew the score.
The statement he and Meghan issued yesterday made it clear he was also told in January 2020, at the family summit in Sandringham, he would not be permitted to ‘pay personally for UK police protection for himself and his family’.
The Queen and Prince Harry pictured at the annual Chelsea Flower show in May 2015
He cannot claim he was not told. For him now to be threatening legal action against the Government, and by extension against the Queen herself, is completely unprecedented for any royal, even one who has abdicated his official duties.
If his mother Princess Diana was still alive and a working royal, I imagine she would actually would back his demands – although persuasion, rather than threats of court action, was more her style.
I expect that if he came back without protection, she would tell her own police protection officers to ‘go and look after Harry for a few days!’ – knowing that the palace would be obliged to send more to ensure she was never without security staff herself.
But then, if Diana was alive, this situation would not have arisen. Her influence would have prevented the breach between her sons.
Without the benefit of his mother’s loving counsel, Harry has demonstrated an incredible insensitivity. I simply can’t fathom what he is thinking.
He’s fully aware of all the difficulties Her Majesty must shoulder in this, her platinum jubilee year, which ought to be the crowning celebration of a lifetime of exceptional public service.
Her younger son Andrew is disgraced, stripped of his duties and facing a court case over sex allegations.
She is grieving the death of her beloved husband of 73 years, the Duke of Edinburgh, whom she buried last year.
And Harry has already done lasting damage to the fabric of the Royal Family, with the interview he and Meghan gave to Oprah Winfrey last year in which they alleged a senior royal made a racist remark about the skin colour of their unborn child.
Now he seems to think he can simply turn up in Britain and that royal protection can be turned back on like a tap.
Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, pictured during an interview with Oprah Winfrey
The only justification for armed protection by officers would be if the intelligence services have identified clear dangers to Harry and his family, from terrorists or other criminals while he is on British soil.
I am not convinced those dangers exist. Of course, if there is a credible threat, the police should without question guard against it – even if this means warning Harry he should not come to Britain.
But the only security issue during his most recent visit the country, as far as I am aware, came after a charity function when paparazzi photographers tried to get pictures of the Duke.
This is a free country. Press photographers are entitled to do their job, however much of a nuisance that might present to camera-shy celebrities.
Harry’s antipathy to the paparazzi is well documented. He holds them largely responsible for his mother’s death in a car crash at the Pont de l’Alma tunnel, Paris, in 1997.
Ever since I left the police 20 years ago, I have argued that the press didn’t kill Diana. The cause of that tragedy was the incompetence of security staff provided by the family of her boyfriend Dodi Fayed, who was killed with her, and the drunkenness of their chauffeur, Henri Paul, who also died in the crash.
Harry does not need armed police to protect him from the paparazzi. He was given police protection for the funeral of Prince Philip, because that occasion was seen by the security services as a potential terrorist flashpoint.
But he did not have the same protection when, for the unveiling of his mother’s statue at Kensington Palace, he returned to Britain three months later. And that evidently rankles.
If he did not realise before, that visit will have taught him his private security staff are not automatically allowed access to UK intelligence. They also will not be given the freedom of royal palaces without the necessary clearance.
In short, it is next to impossible for independent security contractors to match the standards of police protection – and not just because they cannot provide those dramatic moments where motorcycle outriders surround a limousine like mounted knights.
In Britain, unlike America, it is illegal for anyone except police and the military to carry firearms. If Harry arrives in a private jet escorted by men with sunglasses and pistol holsters, they will have to surrender their guns immediately.
There do exist reciprocal arrangements with foreign heads of state, including the US president, which allow their bodyguards to carry guns.
But Harry is emphatically not an official representative of any government. He has gone to extraordinary lengths to shrug off any responsibilities of state.
And I’m sorry to say that, with those responsibilities go the privileges. Yet now he wants those privileges back.
No matter how entitled he and Meghan believe they are, no matter how much money they have banked since leaving the UK, they cannot reclaim what they threw away two years ago. Royalty doesn’t work like that.
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