Prince Harry: 'We need to look at the level of risk' says expertThe Duke of Sussex is seeking a judicial review into a Home Office decision that he
Prince Harry: ‘We need to look at the level of risk’ says expert
The Duke of Sussex is seeking a judicial review into a Home Office decision that he cannot personally pay for police protection for himself and his family when they are in the UK. Harry was stripped of taxpayer-funded security when he stepped down as a full-time working royal in 2020. Now, Harry says he wishes to visit his home country with his wife Meghan Markle and their two children, Archie and Lilibet, but cannot do so until he can be sure that their safety is guaranteed. The move comes after a security incident last year, Harry’s last visit to the UK, when his car was chased by photographers as he left a charity event.
The Sussexes employ a privately-funded bodyguard team in the US, but Harry’s legal representative claims he does not have adequate jurisdiction abroad, nor access to UK intelligence information necessary to protect the Duke and his family.
Harry’s plea to be able to personally pay for his and his family’s protection appears to be vindicated by the measures provided to former prime ministers.
The personal protection of the Prime Minister and former prime ministers is the responsibility of the Metropolitan Police’s Protection Command.
In contrast with the vast majority of serving police officers, many of the Protection Command routinely carry firearms while on duty.
They are all authorised firearms officers.
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Former prime ministers receive lifelong protection.
Private security are forbidden from being armed under UK law.
Former prime ministers are afforded lifelong police protection, which previously led to grumbles about the cost of protecting Tony Blair.
According to a 2016 report in the Daily Express, the taxpayer picks up a protection bill of more than £16,000 a day, inflated by Mr Blair’s globetrotting on business and leisure trips.
The report claimed protection officers have previously stayed at five-star hotels and private game reserves with the Blairs.
An expensive claim submitted by one of the officers, and seen by the Daily Express, was for an elephant safari.
Three other officers, meanwhile, shared a villa at a luxurious health retreat in Bali, which cost almost £7,000 for the week.
Tony Blair is accompanied by armed security wherever he goes.
Likewise, David Cameron was joined by 10 protection officers while bodyboarding at Polzeath beach in Cornwall in 2018.
Harry’s legal representative’s statement noted that former prime ministers, among others, receive paid protection.
The statement said: “As is widely known, others who have left public office and have an inherent threat risk receive police protection at no cost to them.”
Unlike prime ministers, who choose to enter the world of politics, people who are born into the Royal Family are born with an inherent safety risk.
Harry told Oprah Winfrey in his interview that, for this reason, it was a surprise to him that his police protection was taken away when he stepped down from his role.
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David Cameron was accompanied by 10 protection officers on a trip to Cornwall.
He said: “I never thought I would have my security removed, because I was born into this position. I inherited the risk.
“So that was a shock to me. That was what completely changed the whole plan.”
He also argued that the threat level had not changed.
The prince told Oprah: “Their justification is a change in status, of which I pushed back and said, ‘Well, is there a change of risk?’ And after many weeks of waiting, eventually I got the confirmation that no, the risk and threat hasn’t changed, but due to our change in status [by] which we would no longer be official working members of the Royal Family…”
Usually, royal security is funded by the Home Office and decisions about who gets security are made by the Royal and VIP Executive Committee, which controls the security budget for the royal household and VIPs, including former prime ministers.
Harry’s security was compromised on his last return to the UK in September.
Because it is taxpayers’ money which funds this, the Committee makes their decision on a number of factors. However, Harry’s recent request is unusual in that he wants the police protection, but to pay for it himself.
In the wake of the ongoing security row, an SAS-trained ex-soldier has argued that private security cannot provide the protection Harry needs.
Graham Yuill served as a bodyguard to the commander of the British forces during the Troubles, and expressed his concern at the decision to remove Harry’s protection.
He told The Mirror: “I was quite alarmed by the news to be honest, because terrorists listen to and pick up things like this.
“People forget that groups like the IRA and al-Qaeda are still around. Harry could be a target for them, especially in Scotland where there is a lot of open space and a lot of dangerous circumstances.”
Current UK restrictions ban private security firms from being armed — even with non-lethal weapons such as pepper spray and tasers.
Mr Yuill said: “There are former special forces soldiers and excellent former royal protection officers available in private security firms, but they can’t be armed.”
He added: “People can have all the training you want, they can look smart and look intimidating, but there’s nothing you can do if you’re not armed. If a sniper ranges in at 1,500 feet away, if they were to fire a shot there’s no way you can react.”
Mr Yuill warned Harry would become an “easy target for motivated terrorists” as his security could not react to potential threats.
Although the Sussexes have not announced official travel plans this year, they are widely expected to attend a memorial service for Prince Philip, and then to return for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations too.