This morning the High Court has delivered its long awaited judgment in the infamous Richard III Judicial Review Claim and has held that the Ministry of Justice was not obligated to consult over the final resting place for the remains of Richard III.
The judgment, which runs to 40 pages, was delivered by a three strong panel of Judges namely Lady Justice Hallett, Mr Justice Ouseley and Mr Justice Haddon-Cave who all agreed that the time had come to lay Richard III to rest.
As explained in my earlier blogs, the Court did not rule upon where Richard III should be reinterred. The Court were in fact at pains to state that that was the ‘one issue which was not for them to determine’ and that that was a matter which must be resolved by the body which ‘in law has the responsibility to make that decision.’
That body is the University of Leicester who in September 2012 obtained an Exhumation Licence (“the Licence”) from the Ministry of Justice permitting them to excavate the remains of persons unknown which later transpired to be the remains of Richard III. The Licence expressly stated that if the remains of Richard III were located they were to be reinterred at Leicester Cathedral by no later than 31 August 2014.
The Plantagenet Alliance (a group of collateral descendants of Richard III) claimed that the Ministry of Justice had an obligation to consult interested parties on the location of the burial of the remains when the Licence was granted. Or alternatively that the Ministry of Justice was obligated to carry out a consultation on the location of the burial after the remains were determined conclusively to be those of Richard III.
The Court found in favour of the Ministry of Justice and ruled that it would have been impractical for a consultation to have taken place at the date of the grant of the Licence when it was unclear whether or not the remains that were to be exacted were those of Richard III. It also held that in the circumstances, which the Court recognised were unique and unlikely to be repeated, no special obligation was placed on the Ministry of Justice to conduct an open ended public consultation. In reaching that conclusion the Court stated that there were potentially ‘millions of collateral descendants’ to Richard III and it would be too complex to carry out a consultation.
The judgment has been welcomed with open arms in Leicester which has grand plans for the reinternment of Richard III in spring 2015. However the Plantagenet Alliance and those who had hoped that the Judgment may signal the return of Richard III to York are bitterly disappointed. The Plantagenet Alliance does have the opportunity to appeal the Judgment but whether or not they will remains to be seen.
The current Secretary of State for Justice, Chris Grayling, who has previously expressed his dissatisfaction with the claim, today commented that he is ‘frustrated and angry’ that the claim has ‘taken up so much time and public money’. Mr Grayling stated that this case highlights why the Government is currently bringing in a raft of changes to the judicial review process.
The University of Leicester (who is the current custodian of the remains of Richard III) will now lay him to rest in Leicester Cathedral in a ceremony which “befits an anointed King” and this case will act as an intriguing reminder of the ability of an interested party to seek to challenge the actions of a public body by way of an Application for Judicial Review.
Commercial Dispute Resolution Department
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