Wednesday, November 29

Duke of Norfolk sentenced in private for driving offense due to ‘national security’ | aristocracy

The public and press have been excluded from the sentencing of the Duke of Norfolk on grounds of national security as details of the coronation of King Charles III were to be discussed as part of his argument against losing his driving licence.

The earl marshal, 65, who organized the Queen’s funeral and has a key role in the orchestration of the king’s coronation, pleaded guilty at Lavender Hill magistrates court on Monday to use his mobile phone while driving.

Edward Fitzalan-Howard was arrested by police on 7 April after officers spotted him using the device as his BMW cut across their vehicle after going through a red light in Battersea, south-west London, said the prosecutor, Jonathan Bryan.

He told magistrates that the highest-ranking duke in England had already totted up nine penalty points on his driving license from two previous speeding offenses in 2019 and faces a compulsory endorsement of a further six points, which would lead to a ban.

But the duke, who is responsible for arranging the state opening of parliament, will argue “exceptional hardship” in an effort to keep his license, the court has heard.

His lawyer, Natasha Dardashti, made an application to exclude the public and press from that part of the hearing on grounds of national security.

“It is an extremely peculiar situation, whereby his grace, the Duke of Norfolk, the earl marshal, was responsible for the preparation and organization of the funeral of Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II and he is now the person in the country who is responsible. for the coronation of His Royal Highness King Charles III,” she said.

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“In relation to the exceptional hardship argument, his grace will need to provide some detail and information about the preparation of the coronation of His Royal Highness King Charles III.

“The application for this matter to be camera [in private] is for reasons of national security and because details of this will be provided which have not yet been discussed with His Royal Highness, and not yet discussed with the prime minister and not yet discussed with the archbishop of Canterbury.

“It would be unacceptable for these details to be made public or made known to risk the escape of that information of a very sensitive nature.”

Dardashti argued the information should be private until after the coronation, telling magistrates: “Very few people have been made aware of the date, the more sensitive the material the fewer people are yet to be involved in that.”

She said: “Organisation of a national state occasion involves considerable matters of national security, not just the public and officials in this country but world leaders attending the UK. In order to be able to properly advance this argument it would require his grace to go into details, and to allow the press to remain will prohibit him putting forward much of the information he needs to put.

She added: “Given it is such an odd situation, and his grace has such a very, very particular and important role in this national coronation of a new king, I would ask this court to sit camera.”

The earl marshal is the 18th Duke of Norfolk, who inherited the position upon the death of his father in 2002.

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The duke is the most senior lay member of the Roman Catholic church in Britain and a crossbench peer in the House of Lords. An Oxford-educated father of five, he is a descendant of Elizabeth I and is reported to be worth more than £100m.

The cases continue.

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