With the high social status given to the royal family, one would wonder if they can be arrested by a country’s law enforcement. In countries that have a monarch, the royal family is viewed in the same way that the president’s family is treated. The royal family tends to be held in higher esteem in the UK than the prime minister’s family.
The Sovereign is regarded as the symbol of law and order and “as the figure in whose name justice is carried out and law and order is maintained”.
Historical records note that sovereignty was a key feature in law enforcement. It played a massive role in the establishment of legal systems in the UK.
As such the Sovereign became known as the ‘Fount of Justice’ [Source], so can the Fount of Justice’s family members be arrested like ‘common’ citizens?
Under the British monarch, the Queen benefits from sovereign immunity in the UK [Source]. It means that the sovereign “cannot commit a legal wrong and is immune from civil or criminal proceedings”.
The Royal Family’s official website states that “civil and criminal proceedings cannot be taken against the Sovereign as a person under UK law. The Queen is careful to ensure that all her activities in her personal capacity are carried out in strict accordance with the law”.
This exempts the queen from any form of arrest on the civil side. Does it mean that all the other royal families are covered by sovereign immunity?
It was argued that “Any member of the Royal Family can indeed be arrested and tried, with the obvious exception of Her Majesty. In the ‘legal’ sense, any member of the Royal Family other than the Monarch is nothing more than a ‘Commoner’ before the law [Source].
The Queen cannot be arrested, but it is argued that other members of the royal family can actually be arrested. There are certain regulations that need to be observed when arresting a member of the royal family.
For instance, a member of the royal family cannot be arrested if he or she is with the Queen at a particular moment in time.
Also, law enforcement is not allowed to make an arrest in the monarch’s presence. Another regulation is related to arresting a person within the surroundings of a royal palace as this is forbidden.
In defining the royal palace, Wales Online posited that “A royal palace is one that is used as a residence, such as Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace, regardless of whether the monarch is actually living there at the time”.
Various criminal offenses committed by the royal family members were alluded to but the only extreme measure which was taken is fine.
Princess Royal, Princess Anne was the first member of the royal family to plead guilty to a criminal offense. It was related to her dog attacking children.
She was fined £500 and asked to compensate. The Princess was also fined £400 for speeding while driving a Bentley which was moving at 93mph in a 70mph zone. Her daughter was banned from driving for six months as she was caught speeding at 91mph.
Prince Philip’s Range Rover was involved in an accident with another vehicle near Sandringham. Inquiries were made on sovereign immunity, and more questions on immunity came since no arrests were made in this case.
During the first quarter of 2021, Prince Andrew’s friendship with an alleged sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein landed him on the wrong side of law enforcement and he pledged to help with the investigations.
Other royal family members can face the full wrath of the law if they are found guilty and can be arrested, only the Queen enjoys sovereign immunity.