Duke of Sussex lawyers criticised as judge rules claim documents can be redacted

Harry is bringing a claim after being told he would no longer be given the ‘same degree’ of personal protective security when visiting from the US.

24 March 2022

Parts of some documents in the Duke of Sussex’s claim against the Home Office will be kept secret, a High Court judge ruled as he criticised Harry’s legal team for an “entirely unacceptable” breach of court rules.

Harry is bringing a claim against the department after being told he would no longer be given the “same degree” of personal protective security when visiting from the US, despite offering to pay for it himself.

The duke wants to bring his children to visit from the US, but he and his family are “unable to return to his home” because it is too dangerous, a representative previously said.

He is challenging the February 2020 decision of the Executive Committee for the Protection of Royalty and Public Figures – known as Ravec – which has delegated powers from the Home Secretary.

At a preliminary hearing last month, the High Court in London heard an application by both sides for some parts of the court documents in the case to be kept private.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex (Yui Mok/PA)
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex (Yui Mok/PA)

In a judgment on Thursday, Mr Justice Swift said the bid to withhold or redact documents – including a confidential witness statement made by Harry – was allowed.

The judge said: “Some of the information relied on concerns security arrangements put in place either for the claimant or for other public figures in the United Kingdom. For obvious reasons information on such matters usually remains confidential.”

Mr Justice Swift said that some parts of his reasons for the decision would have to remain confidential as well.

He added that editing out information from court documents would “avoid the risk that putting information into the public domain concerning security arrangements made on past occasions, and the general approach to whether and if so what arrangements should be made, may impair the effectiveness of arrangements in place now, or which may be put in place in the future”.

“Information about these matters would self-evidently be of interest to anyone wishing to harm a person within the scope of the security arrangements and would assist them to piece together previous practice with a view to anticipating present or future security provision,” he continued.

Thursday’s ruling only covers the redaction of documents and does not decide the merits of duke’s claim against the Home Office, or if it can go to a full hearing.

After the judgment was made public, Mr Justice Swift criticised Harry’s legal team for breaking the embargo on the document.

High Court judgments are typically provided to lawyers in the case under embargo in a draft form ahead of being made public.

However, Mr Justice Swift said that a copy of Thursday’s ruling had been emailed to someone who was not a lawyer, against court rules, calling this “entirely unacceptable”.

Shaheed Fatima QC, for the duke, said she and her team were unsure about whether sending the draft judgment last week was a breach, but had decided to report it to the judge on Wednesday.

However, the senior judge said it was a “clear breach” and questioned why it had not been raised immediately.

Mr Justice Swift continued: “It should have been obvious that what happened was a breach. At the very least, it should have been obvious that it needed to be reported to the judge, me, at as soon as possible.”

“It is also unacceptable that you come without an apology to the court,” he later said.

Ms Fatima said she took full responsibility and apologised “for the fact that I didn’t think fully before the emails were sent”.

At a hearing last month, Ms Fatima told the court that Harry considers the UK “is and always will be his home”.

A representative for Harry previously said the duke wants to fund the security himself, rather than ask taxpayers to foot the bill.

However, Robert Palmer QC, for the Home Office, previously told the court the duke’s offer of private funding was “irrelevant”.

In written submissions, he said: “Personal protective security by the police is not available on a privately financed basis, and Ravec does not make decisions on the provision of such security on the basis that any financial contribution could be sought or obtained to pay for it.”

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