Royal desire for informality 'had role in break-in'

Click to follow

The Royal Family's desire for a "lighter-touch approach" to Prince William's 21st birthday party might have contributed to the Windsor castle security fiasco, David Blunkett told MPs yesterday.

The Home Secretary also hinted that the self-styled comedy terrorist Aaron Barschak had been filmed as he broke unchallenged into the castle. Demand for tickets for Mr Barschak's show at the Edinburgh Fringe has risen sharply since the weekend.

Making a statement to the Commons, Mr Blunkett offered his "deep regret" to the Royal Family for the security breach. He said a report would be published within four weeks. "Mr Barschak was able to get unacceptably close to Prince William," he said. "Mr Barschak's actions have exposed an appalling failure in the security at Windsor Castle which simply should not have happened."

He dismissed suggestions he should carry any responsibility for the break-in, pointing out that Thames Valley Police were guarding the exterior of the castle, with the Metropolitan Police Royal Protection Branch jointly in charge with royal staff inside.

But he added: "It is very important to bear in mind we are talking about a family and decisions taken by them in relation to the level of surveillance and the particular avoidance of intrusion, particularly where there are invited guests and it is a family event."

Mr Blunkett said the Royal Family, keen to maintain informality, had agreed a "lighter touch approach" to policing. He said: "The difficulty in the final analysis, apart from the failure we have already indicated existed, was they were at a fancy dress party. There is a lesson, if ever there was one."

The inquiry, being led by Commander Frank Armstrong of the City of London Police, would "determine conclusively what went wrong". Mr Blunkett said that, as there was "electronic surveillance of the highest order" at the castle, the review would examine whether the cameras detected the intruder but staff failed to respond.

Sir John Stevens, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, said his officers had been devastated. He said: "We have got to pick up the pieces of what's going on. It's my job to make sure that what happened at the weekend never happens again."

Following the publicity generated by his stunt, ticket sales for Mr Barschak's mock talk show at Edinburgh, Osama Likes It Hot, have "gone mad". Paul Gudgin, the Fringe director, said: "For the first few days of the festival he will sell quite a lot of tickets as his notoriety will go before him. Whether that is sustained will depend entirely on whether he is funny. If he's not, people will stop going and he will be forgotten by the end of August."