Harry and Meghan were ‘recklessly’chased by paparazzi through New York, police confirm

Paparazzi did chase Prince Harry and Meghan Markle “recklessly” through New York last year, police have confirmed.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex said at the time that they and Meghan’s mother Doria Ragland narrowly avoided a “catastrophic” crash while being pursued by paparazzi after leaving the Women of Vision Awards at Manhattan’s Ziegfeld Ballroom on 16 May.

In a statement that was an echo of the 1997 chase through Paris that killed Harry’s mother, Princess Diana, a spokesperson for the royal couple said in the wake of the incident: “This relentless pursuit, lasting over two hours, resulted in multiple near collisions involving other drivers on the road, pedestrians and two [police] officers.”

But authorities gave a different account of events at the time. The New York Police Department, which assisted the couple’s private security, said the journey had been “challenging” but “there were no reported collisions, summonses, injuries or arrests.”

However, in a hearing at the High Court on Wednesday, a judge revealed New York City Police did investigate the car chase and found paparazzi did display “persistently dangerous and unacceptable behaviour”.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle arrive at a New York charity event before the ‘near catastrophic’ car chase (PA)
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle arrive at a New York charity event before the ‘near catastrophic’ car chase (PA)

As Sir Peter Lane ruled on Harry’s case against the British government over the duke’s security arrangements in the UK, the retired judge cited a letter sent by the Chief of Intelligence in the New York City Police Department to the Chief Superintendent OCU Commander Royalty and Speciality Protection.

The redacted version of the letter, dated 6 December 2023, outlined how police investigated safety fears raised by the Sussexes, suggesting security changes had been implemented for the couple in light of the incident.

Following a “thorough review”, the letter, provided to the judge by Harry’s barrister, read: “We did conclude that the behaviour in question was reckless.”

Explaining the conclusions of the police investigation, the judge said: “The investigation had found reckless disregard of vehicle and traffic laws and persistently dangerous and unacceptable behaviour on the part of paparazzi during the night in question.

“They had operated vehicles, scooters and bicycles in a manner that forced the security team, which included the NYPD lead car, to take evasive actions on several occasions and a circuitous route to avoid being struck by pursuing vehicles or trapped on side blocks.”

Although no formal charges were brought, the hearing heard there was sufficient evidence to arrest two individuals for “reckless endangerment”.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex attend Invictus Games Vancouver Whistlers 2025's One Year To Go Winter Training Camp in February (Getty Images)
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex attend Invictus Games Vancouver Whistlers 2025's One Year To Go Winter Training Camp in February (Getty Images)

The incident involved half a dozen cars with blacked-out windows, driving dangerously and putting the lives of the couple and Ms Ragland in danger, according to their spokesperson. “The Duke and Duchess of Sussex and Ms Ragland were involved in a near catastrophic car chase at the hands of a ring of highly aggressive paparazzi,” they said.

The California-based couple had been staying at a private residence but decided against returning there as they did not wish to compromise their host’s safety.

It was understood that the pair believe the pursuit could have been fatal, with the incident said to have featured traffic violations including driving on the pavement and through red lights, reversing down a one-way street, illegally blocking a moving vehicle and driving while photographing and while on the phone.

Harry and Meghan stepped down from their royal roles in 2020 and moved to the United States in part because of what they described as intense media harassment.

The duke lost his battle against the British government on Wednesday over a change to the level of his taxpayer-funded personal security when he visits the UK – but he vowed to seek an appeal.

The duke took legal action against the British Home Office over the February 2020 decision of the Executive Committee for the Protection of Royalty and Public Figures (Ravec) after being told he would no longer be given the “same degree” of publicly-funded protection when in the country.

Sir Peter Lane rejected Harry’s case, concluding that Ravec’s approach was not irrational nor procedurally unfair. In his 52-page partially redacted ruling, he said the duke’s lawyers had taken “an inappropriate, formalist interpretation of the Ravec process”, adding: “The ‘bespoke’ process devised for the claimant in the decision of 28 February 2020 was, and is, legally sound.”

However, following the ruling, a legal spokesperson for Harry said he will appeal, adding: “The Duke is not asking for preferential treatment, but for a fair and lawful application of Ravec’s own rules, ensuring that he receives the same consideration as others in accordance with Ravec’s own written policy.”

The Independent has contacted New York City Police.