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Saturday, December 27, 2014
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Published: Friday, 9/17/2004

A royal embarrassment

AFTER the bizarre scene staged by the "Caped Crusader" at Buckingham Palace this week, surely a new oxymoron has entered the lexicon: British security.

How else to view the appalling breach of the Queen's main residence by a carefully camouflaged and artfully disguised interloper dressed as Batman? And his cohort? No prizes for guessing: He was dressed as Robin.

Despite their comic attire, and armed only with an extension ladder, Jason Hatch and Dave Pyke were able to scamper over a perimeter fence.

Mr. Hatch used the ladder to ascend to a ledge close to a balcony where the royal family appears for ceremonial occasions. His trusty accomplice was ordered off the ladder by police.

There was no threat to the safety of members of the royal family, who were on vacation in Scotland. And police said that had the incursion not been swiftly identified as a stunt, the men would have been shot.

To promote the cause of "Fathers 4 Justice," which campaigns for greater rights for fathers in child custody cases, Mr. Hatch stood on the ledge for more than five hours. And every minute he was there made a mockery of palace security.

Imagine, for a moment, the same scenario playing out in Washington.

A campaigner for a cause, decked out as, say, Spiderman, scales a White House fence, gets to the White House itself, eludes the Secret Service, and then climbs up to a ledge close to where the president makes public appearances. Not very likely.

Worse yet, the London caper is not the first time palace security has been breached. In 1982 an intruder was able to gain access to the queen's bedroom. A para-glider landed on the palace roof 10 years ago.

"It's not good enough," Sir John Stevens, Metropolitan Police Commissioner, said of palace security, in a sublime piece of British understatement.

Fathers 4 Justice has carried out other high-profile stunts, including throwing flour at Prime Minister Tony Blair in the House of Commons, and clambering to the top of the London Eye Ferris wheel. And it will have its 15 minutes of notoriety for breaking into the palace grounds.

But the real message of this escapade has nothing to do with Mr. Hatch and his group. It's the deplorably lax security surrounding Buckingham Palace.

Where's Charlie's Angels when the queen needs them?



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