Prince Harry lost a legal challenge on Tuesday in his quest to pay for police protection in Britain, days after he and his wife, Meghan, were caught in a much-disputed confrontation with photographers in New York City.
In one of two cases involving the prince’s security, the High Court in London rejected Harry’s request for a judicial review of a decision by the Home Office to reject his application to pay privately for protection from the Metropolitan Police when he and his family visit Britain.
Lawyers for the Home Office contended that it was improper for police officers, in effect, to be hired out as private security guards.
In the United States, Harry and Meghan are protected by bodyguards who are licensed to carry weapons. But traveling in Britain poses a particular challenge because their private security guards are not allowed to carry guns.
The legal representatives for Harry, also known as the Duke of Sussex, had argued that he and his family needed that higher level of protection when visiting Britain, and that the prince was willing to pay for it out of his own pocket.
Harry lost his automatic police protection when he and Meghan stepped back from their duties as working members of the royal family in 2020. He is also challenging the process by which the Home Office declined to provide him with taxpayer-supported protection — a claim that has yet to be decided.
The decision on paying for protection, which cannot be appealed, is a setback for Harry at a time when his security has come under heightened scrutiny.
Last week, he and Meghan, along with Meghan’s mother, Doria Ragland, were swarmed by photographers after they left an award ceremony in Midtown Manhattan. What happened after that is the subject of sharply conflicting accounts.
A spokeswoman for the couple described a “a near catastrophic car chase at the hands of a ring of highly aggressive paparazzi.” But a taxi driver who briefly transported the three said that there had been no car chase and no reason for his passengers to be frightened, even though he acknowledged that they appeared to have been alarmed.
A spokesman for the New York Police Department said that the photographers had posed a challenge but added that the three had arrived at their destination on the Upper East Side without “reported collisions, summonses, injuries, or arrests.”
At issue in the case in London is whether the Home Office — through its Executive Committee for the Protection of Royalty and Public Figures, known by the acronym Ravec — was entitled to reject Harry’s request to pay for security, given that the police can be paid to patrol private events like soccer games.
“In my judgment, the short answer to this point is that Ravec did not say that it would be contrary to the public interest to allow wealthy individuals to pay for any police services,” the judge, Martin Chamberlain, wrote in his 10-page ruling. “Its reasoning was narrowly confined to the protective services that fall within its remit.”
In addition to the security cases, Harry is involved in three lawsuits against the publishers of London tabloids — The Mirror, The Daily Mail, and The Sun — over allegations of cellphone hacking and other invasions of his privacy.
The messy encounter with photographers in New York thrust Harry and Meghan back into the headlines in Britain, a few weeks after the prince made a fleeting, subdued appearance at the coronation of his father, King Charles III.
Some security experts have argued that Harry faces a heightened threat because of his claim, in his memoir, “Spare,” that he killed 25 Taliban fighters during two combat tours as a helicopter pilot in Afghanistan.
As a working royal, the prince said that he never traveled without three armed bodyguards. During negotiations with palace officials over his new status, Harry wrote in his memoir, he pleaded for the bodyguards to be left in place, even if he lost all the other royal perks.
“I offered to defray the cost of security out of my own pocket,” he wrote. “I wasn’t sure how I’d do that, but I’d find a way.”