OPINION - How dare Montecito millionaire Prince Harry demand our tax money to cover his legal costs


Prince Harry’s latest court defeat in his rightly unsuccessful bid to overturn the decision to refuse him guaranteed Met police protection after he pulled out of royal duties might seem like a trivial battle over legal fees.

But in fact the duke’s failed attempt to pass 50 to 60 per cent of the costs incurred by the Home Office in fighting his unmerited claim tells us much about the preening prince and his selfish disregard for virtually anyone other than himself, his equally self-obsessed wife, Meghan Markle, and his children.

That’s because when the Duke of Sussex, as he still wants to be called despite ditching his royal role, wasted yet more of the High Court’s time in arguing for the taxpayer to fund at least half of the hundreds of thousands of pounds that the Home Office was forced to spend on the case, what he was really doing was trying to pass on a large chunk of the bill to ordinary taxpayers.

That’s right: instead of having the decency to accept that he’d have to pay up when he lost, the Montecito multimillionaire, for whom the legal expenses will be loose change, wanted taxes paid by everyone ranging from people on the minimum wage to bus drivers, cleaners and pensioners to cover his costs. It’s frankly contemptible.

It's notable too that yesterday’s costs order by the High Court judge, Sir Peter Lane, reveals that Harry, who is so protective of his own privacy (when it suits him), managed to breach a confidentiality agreement made as part of the litigation by emailing “certain information” that was meant to be secret to one his lawyers and the MP Johnny Mercer. The prince might have apologised for the error, but the costs order refers to the “seriousness of the breach” and it was at best a sloppy mistake that added to the Home Office costs that he was trying to avoid.

Instead of having the decency to accept that he’d have to pay up when he lost, the Montecito multimillionaire wanted the taxpayer to cover his costs

Harry’s whole case was, of course, misconceived from the start and it’s worth recapping why.

He asserted that the decision in 2020 by security experts on the Government’s Executive Committee for the Protection of Royalty and Public Figures, known as Ravec, that he should no longer receive publicly-funded police protection in Britain because of his move abroad should be overturned.

The supposed reasons were that the committee had allegedly failed to take into account the impact of a successful attack on the prince and had also acted unreasonably, unfairly and with a lack of transparency.

It was nonsense for the prince to think that he knew better than a panel of experts informed by the latest security advice from the police and intelligence agencies. The High Court unsurprisingly dismissed Harry’s claim on all grounds, finding that there was no reason to overturn the Ravec panel’s decision. It had in fact left open the possibility of occasional police protection for the prince when in Britain, if there was evidence in future of a sufficient threat to his safety.

An attempt by the prince to persuade the courts that a later offer by him to pay for police protection should have been accepted was also rebuffed. Yet another judge dragged into Harry’s interminable litigation ruled it would be wrong to allow the wealthy to receive a service from the limited pool of specialist Met protection officers that a less affluent person could not afford.

That too was the correct and inevitable decision. Police protection officers are highly skilled specialists, trained at significant public expense, who exist only in restricted numbers and who are required to safeguard those facing the highest risks such as working royals, Cabinet ministers and prime ministers current and former, not others like Harry wanting the comfort blanket of protection they don’t need.

In short, every argument put forward by Harry was flawed and rejected by the courts. It’s a sign of his delusion that even the succession of earlier rebuffs from the judiciary didn’t stop him basing his attempt to get off a big chunk of the Home Office’s costs in fighting the litigation on the fantasy claim that he’d achieved “partial success” in his legal action.

It was nonsense for the prince to think that he knew better than a panel of experts informed by the latest security advice

Maybe that was how Harry viewed it. After he all, he told the world in his biography Spare that “there's just as much truth in what I remember and how I remember it as there is in so-called objective facts”.

But it simply wasn’t true, as yesterday’s High Court costs order reminded him.

It pointed out that Harry had “comprehensively lost” and that there was “no merit” in his claim of partial victory with his judicial review argument failing “on all of the pleaded grounds.”

It was the obvious outcome from the start and the claim should never have been brought. His inevitable defeat was deserved and now it’s time for the penny-pinching prince to pay up.

Martin Bentham is the Evening Standard’s home affairs editor