Harry and Meghan to get increased NYPD protection following ‘near catastrophic car chase’

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex moments before they were subjected to a 'relentless pursuit' by a 'gang' of at least six paparazzi

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will receive increased police protection in New York following their “near catastrophic car chase” with paparazzi last year.

The couple, accompanied by Doria Ragland, Meghan’s mother, had just left an award ceremony when they were subjected to a “relentless pursuit” by a “gang” of at least six paparazzi in blacked-out vehicles in May 2023.

At the time, New York City authorities played down the severity of the incident but the High Court has heard that as a direct result of the “reckless” and “persistently dangerous and unacceptable behaviour” of photographers, changes had been made to Harry and Meghan’s security plan.

The development emerged during the Duke’s failed legal battle with the Home Office over the withdrawal of his state-funded police protection.

The judge was shown a copy of a letter, dated Dec 6, 2023, from the chief of intelligence in the New York Police Department regarding the car chase seven months earlier.

It revealed that a “thorough review” of the incident had taken place and that there was sufficient evidence to arrest two individuals for reckless endangerment.

An NYPD spokesman told The Telegraph: “We have since increased security protocols for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.”

However, Mr Justice Lane, who heard the Duke’s legal challenge, ruled that taxpayer-funded security should not be used to protect the couple from paparazzi.

Prince Harry applied for a judicial review of his security arrangements shortly after a visit to the UK in June 2021 when his vehicle was “ambushed” by photographers as he left a charity event, making him feel like a “sitting duck”.

But in a detailed, 52-page ruling, the judge said the Government committee responsible for royal security was “concerned with security against persons bearing a hostile intent towards an individual”, rather than photographers, however recklessly they may act.

He said the Duke’s complaint about the arrangements for the 2021 visit - for a WellChild event at Kew Gardens - was “essentially about the issue of paparazzi”.

“It is, of course, entirely understandable why the claimant should be particularly concerned about the activities of paparazzi, in the light of what happened to his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales,” he acknowledged.

The Royal and VIP Executive Committee said 'problems arising from the activities of paparazzi are not a matter' for them
The Royal and VIP Executive Committee said 'problems arising from the activities of paparazzi are not a matter' for them - James Devaney/GC Images

But he dismissed the Duke’s argument that if a photographer was able to get so close to his vehicle, then so could someone with intent to cause harm.

“Whilst this may be true, it sheds no light on the risk of there being persons with such hostile intent,” the judge concluded.

At the time of the New York incident, the Duke was preparing to return to the UK to give evidence in his phone hacking case against Mirror Group Newspapers at the High Court and discussions were underway about his security arrangements.

A week later, the chair of the Royal and VIP Executive Committee (Ravec), the executive committee for the protection of royalty and VIPs, wrote to outline the agreed measures.

He apparently referred to the WellChild incident as a “privacy” issue.

Three days later, Schillings, the Duke’s legal team, sent a letter to the Government legal department in response, warning that its proposed security arrangements for the forthcoming visit were “again, inadequate, inappropriate and ineffective”.

It said that it was “categorically wrong and also deeply offensive to diminish the gravity of the [WellChild] incident by defining it as being about ‘privacy’”.

The judge noted that the Duke had taken “grave exception” to the claim.

“Plainly, the uncontrolled activities on highways of photographers can pose both a direct and indirect danger to the safety of road users and pedestrians. That danger is not to be underestimated,” he said.

“The essential point that was being made on behalf of the defendant, however, is that potential problems arising from the activities of paparazzi are not a matter for Ravec.”

The ruling highlighted evidence from Shaun Hipgrave, director of Protect and Prepare, previously known as the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism, about the significance of a free press and freedom of expression, which he said, “will inevitably give rise to tensions with individual privacy which is not for Ravec, or the Government to seek to resolve”.

The judge concluded: “Ravec is concerned with security against persons bearing a hostile intent towards an individual, not those who, however recklessly, may cause danger in their efforts to get a photograph of a celebrity that they can then try to sell to a media outlet.”

The Duke has said he will appeal the ruling.