29 May 2014Print This Post

Plantagenet Alliance ‘considering appeal’ over Richard III ruling

Chris Grayling

Grayling: “frustrated and angry” at loss of so much public money

The solicitor for the Plantagenet Alliance has said that an appeal is “under consideration”, following last week’s High Court ruling on the fate of Richard III’s remains.

Justice secretary Chris Grayling said that he was “pleased” that the court had rejected arguments that an exhumation licence should not have been granted by the government, but “frustrated and angry” that the alliance had “taken up so much time and public money”.

Mr Grayling described the alliance, which brought a judicial review challenging the decision taken by his predecessor Ken Clarke to grant a licence, as having “tenuous claims to being relatives of Richard III”.

The justice secretary went on: “This case, brought by a shell company set up by the Alliance to avoid paying legal costs, is an example of exactly why the government is bringing forward a package of reforms to the judicial review process.

“I have been very clear from the start that the decision to grant an exhumation licence for Richard III was taken correctly and in line with the law.”

Mr Justice Haddon-Cave held at the High Court last summer that it was “plainly arguable” that there was a common law duty on the justice secretary and the University of Leicester to consult on the reburial of Richard III.

At a separate costs hearing in October, the same judge rejected an attempt by the Ministry of Justice to overturn a protective costs order awarded in favour of the alliance, protecting it from paying the defendants’ costs if it lost.

However, the High Court ruled last week that the former justice secretary was not under a duty to consult before granting an exhumation licence, and there were “no public law grounds” for the court to interfere with his decision.

In a joint ruling, Lady Justice Hallett, Mr Justice Ouseley and Mr Justice Haddon-Cave said: “In truth, the ‘public’ consultation regarded by the claimant is entirely open-ended and not capable of sensible limit or specificity, in the context of potentially millions of collateral descendants of Richard III.

“Further, in order to articulate how such a complex consultation would be carried out, a detailed process would have to be prescribed in a manner akin to legislation.”

Matthew Howarth, partner and head of commercial litigation at Gordons, acted for the Plantagenet Alliance. He said an appeal against the High Court ruling was “under consideration”, but declined to respond to the justice secretary’s criticisms of the judicial review.

The day before he was replaced by Chris Grayling in a cabinet reshuffle in the summer of 2012, former justice secretary Ken Clarke granted a licence to Leicester University to remove the remains.

They were found in a council car park near the site of Gray Friars Church in Leicester, where Richard’s body was taken after the Battle of Bosworth.

The licence obtained by the university under section 25 of the Burials Act 1857, referred only to “persons unknown”.

However, the university’s archaeological service announced on 12 September 2012 that preliminary investigations indicated the remains were Richard III. This was confirmed the following February.

 

By Nick Hilborne

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