18/10/2013

Further victory for York campaigners as court rejects justice secretary’s applications

Campaigners seeking the reburial of Richard III’s remains in York have won another victory with the court rejection of a series of applications by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling.

Mr Grayling’s applications related to the forthcoming judicial review hearing of the case brought by a group of 15 of the king’s collateral descendants known as Plantagenet Alliance Limited. The hearing, which will review decisions authorising the exhuming and reinterring of Richard III’s remains in Leicester, will take place next month in the Divisional Court in London and last a full day.

Following a hearing at the High Court in London, Mr Justice Haddon-Cave has today turned down attempts by Mr Grayling to: prevent the campaigners securing a Protective Costs Order; force the alliance to make a payment in security for any costs ultimately awarded against it; and vary a disclosure order obliging the Ministry of Justice to provide certain information to the alliance before the hearing.

Mr Grayling’s applications followed a high court hearing in August, at which the same judge granted the Plantagenet Alliance permission to bring a judicial review challenge against the Ministry of Justice and a Protective Costs Order, meaning that if it lost at the judicial review hearing it did not have to pay costs to the justice secretary or University of Leicester. However, if the alliance was victorious, its opponents would have to pay its costs as well as their own.

Matthew Howarth, the partner and judicial review expert at Yorkshire law firm Gordons representing the Alliance, explained: “If today’s rulings had gone against us, our case would probably have been abandoned, as the alliance has no funds to pursue its action. Now, though, if we lose, my client will not be exposed to a costs sanction, but if we win, we’re entitled to recover our costs subject to a cap of £70,000-worth.

“The judgement provides an express right to revisit the level of this cap at the end of the judicial review case. The manner in which the case has been defended to date may well be relevant in this regard. This is a great result and enables the real dispute to be the subject of a full hearing next month. The ministry knew that if they succeeded, the judicial review would never take place and it would have stifled the challenge.”

Specifically, the forthcoming hearing will review processes surrounding the Justice Secretary’s decision to grant a “section 25 licence” to the University, through which that institution was given permission to remove the king’s remains from beneath a council car park in Leicester last autumn and reinter them.

The Plantagenet Alliance is seeking that the licence be quashed. It argues, among other things, that the Justice Secretary failed to consult sufficiently or take into account the wishes of the king’s descendants and his own preferences – if they can be determined – when issuing the licence.

Mr Howarth said: “Today’s judgement confirms that my client’s case ‘self-evidently raises matters of general public importance’ and is not a mere campaigning or publicity tool, as the Ministry’s counsel claimed in court.

“It also points-out there’s a fundamental need for the court to ensure due processes of common law are observed and that there’s a clear inequality of arms here, with my client being a not-for-profit entity and my firm having undertaken a considerable amount of work for it on a pro-bono basis.

“Today’s decisions are undoubtedly further blows to the Justice Secretary and University of Leicester. Yet the ministry continues to fight this case against a claimant with no resources, incurring substantial legal costs and court time, and refuses to accept the sensible option of putting the matter to an expert panel.”

Reacting to today’s judgment, the Plantagenet Alliance’s Stephen Nicolay, a sixteenth great nephew of King Richard III, said: “Another brilliant piece of work by a highly skilled and dedicated legal team. Very well done to all concerned!”

More details of the campaign to have King Richard III’s remains buried in York can be found at  http://kingrichardcampaign.org.uk/