Harry and Meghan pursued by paparazzi in 'dangerous' New York chase - judge

Meghan and Harry  (PA Wire)
Meghan and Harry (PA Wire)

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex were dangerously chased through New York City by paparazzi in an incident that led to their security being upgraded in the US, it has been revealed.

Harry and Meghan were travelling home from an awards ceremony on May 16 last year when they were pursued by photographers in cars, scooters and bikes, in an incident they characterised as a “near catastrophic car chase”.

The description was hotly contested in the days afterwards, amid allegations that the couple had inflated the seriousness of the situation.

But a ruling at the High Court in London on Wednesday appeared to vindicate their stance, revealing that New York City Police had investigated the incident and found sufficient evidence to arrest two people on suspicion of reckless endangerment.

A letter, dated December 6 last year, showed the force’s Chief of Intelligence had written to a Metropolitan Police Chief Superintendent about “certain changes to the security posture that will be afforded to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in light of the security incident that took place on May 16 2023 in New York City”.

The court heard the letter outlines that formal criminal charges were not brought, but police “did conclude that the behaviour in question was reckless”.

“The investigation had found reckless disregard of vehicle and traffic laws and persistently dangerous and unacceptable behaviour on the part of paparazzi during the night in question”, said the judge’s ruling.

Harry and Meghan before the car chase in New York City (AP)
Harry and Meghan before the car chase in New York City (AP)

“They had operated vehicles, scooters and bicycles in a manner that forced the security team, which included the NYPD lead car, to take evasive actions on several occasions and a circuitous route to avoid being struck by pursuing vehicles or trapped on side blocks.

“The conclusion was that there was sufficient evidence to arrest two individuals for reckless endangerment.”

After the incident, the couple – who had been travelling with Meghan’s mother Doria Ragland – issued a statement about a "relentless pursuit" which lasted for more than two hours and resulted in "multiple near collisions".

"Last night, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and Ms Ragland were involved in a near catastrophic car chase at the hands of a ring of highly aggressive paparazzi”, said their spokesperson.

"While being a public figure comes with a level of interest from the public, it should never come at the cost of anyone's safety.”

A picture agency announced it was investigating the conduct of several freelance photographers, but said they had a “feeling that the couple was not in immediate danger at any point”.

New York City Police put out a statement at the time, saying the activities of photographers had made the couple’s journey “challenging”.

The incident was put forward as part of the evidence in Harry’s legal challenge against the Home Office over the decision to downgrade his right to automatic security in the UK.

On Wednesday, retired High Court judge Sir Peter Lane dismissed the Duke’s challenge and said that decision had been taken lawfully. Harry has vowed to appeal.

In his ruling, Sir Peter said it is “entirely understandable (he) should be particularly concerned about the activities of paparazzi, in the light of what happened to his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales”.

The Princess died in a car crash in Paris in 1997, when her car had been pursued through the city by paparazzi photographers.

Of the incident in New York last year, Sir Peter said: “Contrary to what appears to have entered the public domain, the letter states that reckless endangerment did take place on 16 May 2023, when the claimant and the Duchess were being driven in Manhattan.”

He said Harry had argued that “if a photographer is able to get so close to the vehicle in which (he) is travelling in order to take a photograph of him, then so too could someone with intent to harm (him).”

But the judge concluded that this does not impact on the decision taken over his UK security.