Prince Harry’s Lawyers Warned by the Court to Stop “Leaking” Information
Prince Harry’s lawyers were issued a warning after a judgement in his police protection case against the government was defaulted by his legal team.
On Thursday, Mr. Justice Swift ruled that documents in the Duke of Sussex’s legal case could be kept a secret. After issuing the decision, the judge rebuked Harry’s lawyers for being flippant with the court proceedings and leaking documents.
Judge Asks Prince Harry’s Legal Team to Apologize After They Disregarded His Ruling
The court heard the judgement, which was shared under embargo with lawyers before being formally handed down, was previously sent on to former British Army Major General Tim Robinson.
Mr. Robinson is a partner at Schillings, the law firm representing Prince Harry. His focus is in “putting out reputational fires” and protecting clients’ privacy. In the sense of the word, Mr. Robinson is not a qualified lawyer.
“It seems to me there was a breach of the embargo, the draft judgment should not have been provided to Mr. Robinson,” the judge explained.
Branding the situation “entirely unacceptable”, he told the Prince’s barrister Shaheed Fatima QC: “It is also unacceptable you have come here without an apology.”
In reply, the barrister insisted that she was not aware that sending the embargoed to Mr. Robinson in advance before it was handed down in open court was a breach, but they decided the previous day to report the incident to the judge.
“We didn’t think there had been a breach,” she told the court, to which the judge shot back: “Let me disabuse you of that notion – there has been a breach.”
The court heard Mr. Robinson, to whom the documents were primarily forwarded to and who provided a witness statement in the legal battle, is not a solicitor and “not qualified as a matter of law to provide legal services.”
To this reasoning, Ms. Fatima agreed to take sole “responsibility for what has happened”.
Mr. Justice Swift said that editing out information from court documents would “avoid the risk
“But no apology?” asked the judge.
“With the benefit of hindsight, I should have thought more fully – before the emails were sent – about Mr. Robinson’s status, and with the benefit of hindsight I should have out of an abundance of caution contacted the court,” said Ms. Fatima.
The judge replied: “It’s not for me to require you to apologise. It should be a matter for you as a matter of professional conscience. If you choose not to, there is nothing I propose to do about it.”
Ms. Fatima then told the judge: “I am very sorry for the fact I didn’t think fully before the emails were sent and I didn’t contact the court sooner.”
The judge concluded the conversation by telling Ms. Fatima that the exchange did not show her credibility and her words were “not particularly well-chosen.”
Judge Justice Swift Rules That Certain Court Decisions Must Be Kept Confidential
The Thursday ruling means that certain parts of the court proceedings between the Duke of Sussex and Home Office will be kept private.
Harry is currently claiming that he doesn’t feel safe bringing his family to the U.K. He argues that while his position within the Royal Household has changed, his profile hasn’t, and this makes him entitled to get police security, which he says he will pay for.
In his ruling, Mr. Justice Swift said 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”.
He added: “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.”
However, the judge’s ruling does not reflect on the credibility of Harry’s case.
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