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Prince Harry should not be allowed to pay for police protection, court told

FILE PHOTO: Britain's Prince Harry walks outside the High Court, in London

By Michael Holden

LONDON (Reuters) - Prince Harry should not be allowed to pay for his own police protection while in Britain because wealthy individuals should not be able to buy specially trained officers as private bodyguards, lawyers for the British government told a court on Tuesday.

Harry, King Charles' younger son, lost full police protection usually afforded to royal figures after he and his American wife Meghan stepped down from their official roles in 2020 to move to the United States.

Since moving to California, where they live with their two young children, they have relied on a private security team, but say those arrangements do not give the fifth-in-line to the throne the level of protection he needs while visiting Britain.

Harry, who was briefly in Britain for his father King Charles' Coronation earlier this month, offered to pay for the protection himself, which authorities refused. He is now seeking a review of that decision.

Last year, Britain's former counter-terrorism police chief said there had been credible threats made against the couple by far-right extremists.

The decision to strip him of publicly-funded protection was taken by the Executive Committee for the Protection of Royalty and Public Figures, known by the acronym RAVEC, which approves security for the royals and VIPs, such as the prime minister.

Harry was given permission for a judicial review into the lawfulness of RAVEC's original conclusion last July to remove his protection, but he has subsequently sought a second review into its decision not to allow him to fund the security arrangements himself.

A judge initially denied him permission for this in February and on Tuesday his lawyers sought to overturn that decision.

His lawyer Shaheed Fatima told the High Court in London RAVEC did not have the power to reject his funding offer, and even if it did have the authority, it was wrong not to consider an exception or hear representations on his behalf.

Lawyers for the Home Secretary, the minister who has responsibility for the police, said in court documents RAVEC had unanimously concluded he should not be permitted to pay for protection and there was no legal basis for officers to be used "as private bodyguards of the wealthy".

Robert Palmer, the lawyer for the Home Secretary, said Royalty and Specialist Protection armed officers had a "very unique set of skills and tactics and training" who were "expected to place themselves in harm's way".

It was very different to paying for policing for a soccer match, a marathon, or even a celebrity's wedding, and was "by its nature, exceptional", Palmer said.

The judge, Martin Chamberlain, said he would give his decision in a week or so.

The case was being heard while other lawyers for Harry are involved in a separate lawsuit in another High Court courtroom where he and others are suing Mirror Group Newspapers over allegations of phone-hacking and other unlawful activities.

Harry is also currently suing the publisher of the Mail on Sunday newspaper for libel over an article that alleged he only offered to pay for police protection after the start of his legal case against the British government.

That article accused Harry, 38, of attempting to mislead the public about his lawsuit. A judge is currently considering whether to rule in Harry's favour without a trial.

(Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)