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Prince Harry claims he was ‘forced’ to step back from royal duties

Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex leaves from the Royal Courts of Justice, Britain's High Court, in central London
The Duke of Sussex leaves the Royal Courts of Justice in central London during a hearing in March - AFP

The Duke of Sussex was “forced” to step back from royal duties and leave the UK, he has told the High Court.

Prince Harry disputed a suggestion, made during his legal challenge against the Government decision to deny him automatic police protection in the UK, that he had chosen to stop being “a full-time working member of the Royal family”.

His barrister, Shaheed Fatima KC, said she wanted to make it “quite clear” that this was not the case.

She read an excerpt from the Duke’s witness statement in which he said: “It was with great sadness for the both of us that my wife and I felt forced to step back from this role and leave the country in 2020.

“The UK is my home. The UK is central to the heritage of my children, and a place I want them to feel at home as much as where they live at the moment in the United States. That cannot happen if it is not possible to keep them safe when they are on UK soil.

“I cannot put my wife in danger like that and, given my experiences in life, I am reluctant to unnecessarily put myself in harm’s way too.”

The Duke launched a legal challenge against the Home Office over the decision to deny him and his family automatic police protection every time they return to the UK.

He applied for a judicial review after the executive committee for the protection of royalty and public figures said in February 2020 that he and his family were no longer entitled to the “same degree” of personal security when visiting Britain. The claim has been heard this week before Mr Justice Lane.

Ms Fatima said Sir James Eadie KC, for the Home Office, had made references to Harry no longer being a full-time working royal “in a way that emphasised choice”.

She said the implication appeared to be that if the committee’s decision was the “consequence of a choice” the Duke had made then that was “somehow relevant”.

She added: “I do want to make it quite clear, as a matter of fact, that that is not accepted by my client… He doesn’t accept that this is a choice.”

Ms Fatima had previously told the judge that the Duke had been singled out and treated “less favourably” than others. She said he had been subjected to “unlawful and unfair treatment”.

The barrister argued that the committee had failed to consider the potential “impact on the UK’s reputation” of a successful attack on the Duke, “bearing in mind his status, background and profile within the Royal family”.

The Royal household was said to have raised the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in its own correspondence on the subject. The committee was therefore aware of the wider “impact” of any attack on her younger son as a result.

‘Bespoke’ approach

Sir James told the court that the committee had devised a “bespoke” approach to the Duke’s security that involved assessing each visit on its merits.

He said a risk analysis, as carried out for other VIPs, was deemed of limited use in this case because it could not accurately assess impact or judge the Duke’s vulnerability to an attack when no one knew how long he would be in Britain or exactly what he would be doing.

But Ms Fatima said the analysis, by the Risk Management Board, was a “crucial” part of the committee’s approach, and one that provided the basis for its decisions. “The first key task is to get an RMB analysis,” she added.

The barrister argued that the Duke’s “exceptional and unprecedented” case marked the first time the committee had deviated from its own policy regarding the analysis and had shown no “clear or cogent” reasons for doing so.

She said the committee’s policies were “legally enforceable” and that any departure from its framework must be questioned, “especially when the stakes are so high.”

Sir James told the judge that the committee’s nuanced approach was “appropriate and reasonable” in the circumstances.

In written submissions, the barrister noted that there were “finite public resources” for state-provided protective security and that it was “plainly rational” for the committee to consider that the Duke was stepping back as a working member of the Royal family.

The ruling will be handed down at a later date.

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