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UK prince smoked cannabis - palace

Prince Harry, 17, spent a day at a rehab clinic where he heard about the dangers of substance abuse
Prince Harry, 17, spent a day at a rehab clinic where he heard about the dangers of substance abuse  

LONDON, England (CNN) -- The youngest son of Prince Charles and the late Diana, Princess of Wales, has attended a drug rehabilitation clinic after he admitted to smoking cannabis.

Bill Puddicombe, chief executive of Phoenix House UK, told CNN that Prince Harry, 17, made a short visit to the organisation's Featherstone Lodge centre in southeast London.

Royal officials did not deny revelations by a tabloid newspaper on Sunday that Harry, third in line to the British throne, confessed to his father that he smoked marijuana and drank heavily at a pub near Prince Charles's Highgrove country estate in western England last summer, when he was 16.

In Britain, possession of cannabis, a class B controlled substance, is punishable by up to five years in prison, although the government has proposed making possession a non-arrestable offence. The legal age for buying alcohol is 18.

Clive Goodman, of the News of the World, told CNN: "These were were no usual teenage high spirits. This was a young lad drinking under age ... taking pot, which is illegal."

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But a Buckingham Palace spokesman said the prince had never used stronger drugs and had not taken any substances since then.

A spokesman for St James's Palace, Prince Charles's official residence, said: "This is a serious matter which was resolved within the family, and is now in the past and is now closed."

The News of the World said Harry had experimented with marijuana over a two-month period at Highgrove, in a rundown shed at a nearby pub and at private parties held by friends.

Charles was often away on business and Harry's brother Prince William was away travelling on a "gap" year between leaving school and starting university, the newspaper said.

Charles was alerted to his son's behaviour by a Highgrove staff member, who noticed a strong smell of marijuana, the newspaper reported.

Puddicombe said Harry's visit to the rehabilitation centre lasted a couple of hours.

"He was friendly and relaxed, and the residents received him warmly," Puddicombe said.

Prince Harry, right, pictured with his older brother, Prince William
Prince Harry, right, pictured with his older brother, Prince William  

Charles is reported to have reacted straight away when he learned his son had tried cannabis, sending him to visit the rehab clinic to show him the dangers of drug abuse.

"The way we interpreted it was it was a piece of good, responsible parenting by Prince Charles," Puddicombe said, noting that Queen Elizabeth's eldest son was a patron of the Phoenix House, and attended the opening of the refurbished Featherstone Lodge in 1998.

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose eldest son was caught underage drinking, praised the reaction of Prince Charles.

"I think the way that Prince Charles and the Royal Family have handled it is absolutely right and they have done it in a very responsible and, as you would expect, in a very sensitive way for their child," Blair told the BBC.

Scandals involving drink and drugs have dogged the circle of friends of Prince Harry and his elder brother William, whose mother died in a car crash in 1997.

Last year, Nicholas Knatchbull, one of Prince Charles's godchildren received treatment at a drug rehabilitation clinic.

Tom Parker Bowles -- another godchild and son of Prince Charles's partner, Camilla Parker Bowles -- was exposed as a cocaine user two years ago.

His cousin, Emma Parker Bowles, admitted in 2000 that she had been treated for drink and drug addiction.

And when he was 14, Prince Charles himself was at the centre of an infamous underage drinking episode after he entered a pub on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland.

He asked for a cherry brandy, saying later it was the first thing that came into his mind, but the incident attracted international attention.


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