Drinking reports embarrass Harry


BRITAIN: Prince Harry was yesterday "embarrassed and upset" by reports about his admission that he regularly smoked cannabis and had been drinking underage, writes Rachel Donnelly, in London

As the British Prime Minister, Mr Tony Blair, whose own son, Euan, was found drinking underage two years ago, praised Prince Charles for his "very sensitive" handling of the situation, the Press Complaints Commission reminded the media that the 17-year-old prince was still at school and his privacy must be respected.

Reports in the News of the World, quickly picked up by the rest of the media at the weekend, revealed Prince Harry had confessed to his father that he regularly smoked cannabis and had been drinking after-hours in a pub near Prince Charles's Highgrove estate in Gloucestershire during his summer holidays last year. He was 16 years old at the time and following an argument at the pub, the Rattlebone Inn, he was asked to leave.

Some newspaper reports claimed the prince had argued with a French chef at the pub and called him "a f***ing frog".

Prince Harry was at Highgrove yesterday with his father and brother, Prince William, and the BBC said he had expressed some regret and embarrassment about the media reports. Reports yesterday said Prince Harry had "quickly realised the error of his ways" and had not resumed smoking cannabis or drinking alcohol.

St James's Palace acknowledged the situation was a "serious matter" but stressed it had been resolved. Prince Harry did not need treatment for drink or drug addiction, but on the advice of his father, visited a drug rehabilitation clinic in south London where he met and talked to drug addicts about their problems.

The director of the Press Complaints Commission, Mr Guy Black, praised newspapers and magazines for respecting Prince Harry's and Prince William's privacy: "It was important to underline that this was an exceptional matter of public interest. But this does not detract in any way from the tough rules that apply to all children, including Prince Harry, while they are at school."

The Liberal Democrat leader, Mr Charles Kennedy, said he hoped Prince Harry's case would help promote a "mature debate" about decriminalising cannabis.