UK court: Prince Harry cannot personally pay for police protection when visiting

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex attends the Coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla on May 6, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Ben Stansall - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

A London judge rejected Prince Harry's bid to pay for his own police protection Tuesday, denying the royal's request to challenge the U.K. government in court.

The British government stopped providing security after Harry, the younger son of King Charles III, and his wife, the former actress Meghan Markle, quit their royal duties and moved to California in 2020. It then rejected his offer to pay for protection when he visits home.

A lawyer for the government argued in court that it was not appropriate to allow hiring "police officers as private bodyguards for the wealthy."

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Justice Martin Chamberlain said there was nothing "incoherent or illogical" in the government’s reasoning to deny the Duke of Sussex’s request to hire police bodyguards at his own expense. He said providing private protection for an individual was different from paying police as security at sporting and other events.

Further, he said it could strain police resources, set a precedent and be seen as unfair.

"If privately funded protective security were permitted, a less wealthy individual would feel unfairly treated, the availability of a limited specialist resource would be reduced and a precedent would have been set which it would be difficult to contain," Chamberlain wrote.

Harry has said he doesn’t feel safe visiting Britain with his young children, and has cited aggressive press photographers that chased him after an event in 2021.

The case was argued last week on the same day Harry and Meghan sought cover from paparazzi in a New York police station after a spokesperson said they had been involved in a "near catastrophic car chase" with photographers after a gala event.

No one was injured and no citations given, but police said photographers made it challenging for the couple to get where they were going.

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The couple have said they fund their own security. Former President Donald Trump said the U.S. government wouldn’t pay to protect them.

While Harry lost the case to pay police to protect him in the U.K., he could end up with a bigger prize. Another judge allowed his case to proceed challenging the decision to deny him government-paid security.

The prince has four other active legal cases in London courts, all of them against British tabloid publishers over allegations of phone hacking or libel.

Harry is due to testify next month in an ongoing trial against the publisher of the Daily Mirror over allegations it used illegal means to gather material for dozens of articles about the duke, dating back as far as the 1990s.

Judges are currently weighing whether two other phone hacking cases can go to trial against the publishers of the Daily Mail and The Sun.

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Lawyers for the newspapers have argued the claims were brought well beyond a six-year time limit. Harry's lawyer has argued that an exception should be granted because the publishers were deceptive about the hacking and other unlawful information gathering so he couldn't discover it soon enough.

A judge is also considering whether to toss out Harry's libel lawsuit against the Mail on Sunday over an article alleging he tried to hush up his challenge to pay for police security.

The newspaper has claimed it was expressing an "honest opinion," but a judge in a preliminary ruling found it defamatory.