The peer who organised the Queen’s funeral will argue he should not be banned from driving because he needs his licence to arrange the King’s coronation, a court has heard.
The Earl Marshal, the Duke of Norfolk, 65, pleaded guilty at Lavender Hill Magistrates’ Court on Monday to using his mobile phone while driving.
Edward Fitzalan-Howard was stopped by police on April 7 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 prosecutor Jonathan Bryan.
He told magistrates the highest-ranking duke in England had already totted up nine penalty points on his driving licence from two previous speeding offences in 2019 and faces a compulsory endorsement of a further six points, which would lead to a ban.
But the Earl Marshal, who is responsible for arranging the State Opening of Parliament, will argue “exceptional hardship” in a bid to keep his licence, the court 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 organisation 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.
“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 in camera 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.”
Ms 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 in camera.”
The Earl Marshal is the 18th Duke of Norfolk, who inherited the position upon the death of his father in 2002.
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 also reported to be worth more than £100 million.
Two thousand people including world leaders and foreign royals gathered inside Westminster Abbey in London last Monday for the final farewell to the nation’s longest reigning monarch, in an event watched around the globe.
The duke described organising the Queen’s funeral as “both humbling and daunting” and “an honour and a great responsibility”.
Outlining the facts of the driving offence, prosecutor Jonathan Bryan said: “The time was just before 3.45pm, it was a Thursday. Officers were in a vehicle on Battersea Park Road when they saw a BMW.
“Officers were stationary at a traffic lights, which turned green.
“A BMW cut across them and on that basis the officers assumed it must have gone through a red light because their light was green.
“One of the officers noticed the driver was using a mobile phone while doing this and didn’t seem to be paying attention.
“The officers drove up to the BMW and saw through the window that the driver was using his mobile phone.
“They spoke to the driver, who was his grace. There was a conversation about the use of a mobile phone.
“He said he had not been aware of going through the red light but accepted this was because he was using his mobile phone.
“He said he was in communication with his wife.”
The case continues.