Prince Harry challenges the decision to strip him of security in Britain after he moved to the U.S.
FILE - Prince Harry leaves the High Court after giving evidence in London, Tuesday, June 6, 2023. Prince Harry is challenging on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023, the British government’s decision to strip him of his security detail after he gave up his status as a working member of the royal family and moved to the United States. The Duke of Sussex said he wants protection when he visits home and claimed it's partly because an aggressive press jeopardizes his safety and that of his family. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali, File)
Brian Melley, The Associated Press
Published Tuesday, December 5, 2023 7:40AM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, December 5, 2023 2:58PM EST
LONDON (AP) - Prince Harry was unfairly stripped of his publicly funded security detail after giving up his status as a working member of the royal family and moving to the U.S., his lawyer said in court Tuesday.
The Duke of Sussex wants protection while visiting the U.K. and claims he and his family are endangered because of hostility toward him and his wife on social media and relentless news media hounding them.
Attorney Shaheed Fatima said the government group that evaluated Harry's security needs - known by the acronym of its former name, the Royal and VIP Executive Committee, or RAVEC - acted irrationally and failed to follow its own policies that should have required a risk analysis about the duke's safety.
“RAVEC should have considered the `impact' that a successful attack on the claimant would have, bearing in mind his status, background and profile within the royal family - which he was born into and which he will have for the rest of his life,” Fatima said. “RAVEC should have considered, in particular, the impact on the U.K.'s reputation of a successful attack on the claimant.”
The three-day hearing in London's High Court is the latest in a series of Harry's legal cases as he challenges the decision by the U.K. government over his protection and takes on the British tabloid media he has vowed to hold accountable for intruding in his life since he was a child.
Harry wasn't in court as attorneys presented opening remarks before the hearing moved behind closed doors to discuss sensitive security matters. The judge is expected to rule at a later date.
Harry failed to persuade a different judge earlier this year that he should be able to privately pay for London's police force to guard him when he comes to town. A judge denied that offer after a government lawyer argued that officers shouldn't be used as “private bodyguards for the wealthy.”
Harry, the youngest son of King Charles III, said that he didn't feel safe bringing his wife, former actor Meghan Markle, and their two young children back to Britain and was concerned about his own safety after being chased by paparazzi following a London charity event.
Harry's animosity toward the media dates back to the death of his mother Princess Diana in a car wreck in 1997 as her driver tried to outrun aggressive photographers in Paris.
Harry, whose wife is biracial, cited what he said were racist attitudes and unbearable intrusions of the British media in his decision to leave the U.K.
The 39-year-old prince is challenging the decision by the group now known as the Executive Committee for the Protection of Royalty and Public Figures to provide his security on a “case by case” basis after he moved in 2020 to Canada and then California, where he and his family now reside.
Government lawyer James Eadie said Harry had been treated fairly and was still provided protection on some visits, such as the one in June 2021 when he was chased by photographers after attending an event with seriously ill children at Kew Gardens in west London.
“He should be placed in a bespoke position and that bespoke arrangements be â€¦ specifically tailored to him,” Eadie said. “He is no longer a member of the cohort of individuals whose security position remains under regular review.”
The committee considered the wider impact the “tragic death” of Diana had on the nation, and in making its decision gave greater weight to the “likely significant public upset were a successful attack” on her son to happen, Eadie said.
Eadie also said there was a cost factor because security funds aren't unlimited.
Harry said the committee unfairly rejected his security request without hearing from him personally and didn't disclose the panel's composition, which he later learned included royal family staff. He said that Edward Young, the assistant private secretary to the late Queen Elizabeth II, shouldn't have been on the committee because of “significant tensions” between the two men.
The Home Office has argued that any tensions between Harry and royal household staff were irrelevant and that the committee was entitled to its decision because he had relinquished his role as a working member of the family.
The case is one of five that Harry has pending in the High Court.
The four others involve Britain's best-known tabloids, including a case that alleges the publisher of the Daily Mail libeled him when it ran a story suggesting he had tried to hide his efforts to continue receiving government-funded security. A ruling is expected in that case on Friday.
Three other lawsuits allege that journalists at the Mail, the Daily Mirror and The Sun used unlawful means, such as deception, phone hacking and hiring private investigators, to try to dig up dirt about him.