Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex visits the Rugby Football Union (RFU) All Schools programme at Lealands High School in Luton. Picture: Reuters

The BBC has apologised to the Duke of Sussex for failing to warn him before publishing an image from a neo-Nazi group that branded him a "race traitor".

The lurid graphic depicted Prince Harry with a gun pointed at his head and included a blood splatter, a swastika and the words "See ya later race traitor!"

The 35-year-old prince complained to the BBC and the industry regulator Ofcom about the ‘racist image’ that caused his family ‘great distress’ at a time when Meghan, Duchess of Sussex was five months pregnant.

But both the BBC and Ofcom found the image – published online and broadcast on the News at Ten last December – was in the public interest. The broadcaster’s report was part of an investigation into a Right-wing group called the Sonnenkrieg Division headlined "British neo-Nazis suggest Prince Harry should be shot".

A BBC source said it was ‘an important piece of journalism’ that led to the arrest, conviction and imprisonment of two members of the group.

But the broadcaster has now written to the duke to apologise for failing to warn him about the distressing image.

A spokesman for Prince Harry said he welcomed the letter but maintained that the BBC should not have published the propaganda so "others would not potentially be influenced by such an inflammatory image".

He added the prince had "raised the issue" with Ofcom "due to his concerns that hateful and dangerous propaganda had been spread globally by the world’s most important public service broadcaster".

The spokesman said: "Due to the credibility of BBC, their choice to publicise this material created an open door for all other media to reproduce it.

"The BBC, in reporting on the activities of this group which led to the conviction of two men, reproduced the propaganda material used by the group which raised serious security concerns and caused his family great distress specifically while his wife was nearly five months pregnant.’

Ofcom received one complaint that argued the BBC’s report fell "below the generally accepted standards". In a ruling in July, the regulator said: "The image contained graphic imagery and an explicit threat of violence against the Duke of Sussex made on the basis of racial hatred against his wife, HRH the Duchess of Sussex". The complaint was not upheld.

An Ofcom spokesman said yesterday the use of the offensive image was "editorially justified as it was used to condemn and illustrate the racist group’s activities".

A BBC source said there was a "clear editorial rationale" for using the image but ‘we regret the distress caused and we apologised for failing to warn Kensington Palace in advance that it was to be published’.

Daily Mail