Challenge by Richard III’s descendants to Leicester reburial set to be heard on 13 March
A full judicial review of Government permission for Richard III’s remains to be reburied in Leicester will take place in London’s High Court next Thursday (13 March).
Permission for the hearing has been won by the Plantagenet Alliance, a group of Richard III’s collateral descendants who want the verdict favouring Leicester overturned and the king’s remains reinterred in York.
Specifically, Thursday’s hearing will examine the alliance’s challenge to processes surrounding the Ministry of Justice’s decision to grant a “section 25 licence” under the Burial Act to the University of Leicester. The licence authorised that institution to remove the king’s remains from beneath a council car park in the city during the autumn of 2012 and reinter them. The university later announced it intended the reburial would take place in Leicester Cathedral.
The alliance’s lawyers will argue on Thursday, among other things, that the ministry failed to consult sufficiently or take into account the wishes of either the king’s descendants or the monarch himself, if they can be determined, when issuing the licence. They will maintain the failure to adopt appropriate consultation was unlawful and amounted to a breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, covering the right to respect for private and family life.
Matthew Howarth, the partner and judicial review expert at Yorkshire law firm Gordons representing the alliance said: “The full hearing was originally due to take place last November. However, it was adjourned after the three judges present granted our application, which was resisted, for Leicester City Council – which had become an interested party in the case only three weeks earlier – to be made a defendant, alongside the university and ministry.
“The council, which had earlier refused our invitation to adopt defendant status, was made to pay the costs we incurred in making our application. The implications of our success include that the local authority may now be liable for further costs, if we ultimately win the case.”
Also at November’s adjourned hearing, Leicester City Council’s barrister confirmed that it would hold a public consultation on where the bones should be buried – something it had considered previously and rejected. This pledge caused the judges to remark the case had now entered Alice in Wonderland territory, as the alliance had sought such a consultation all along.
However, the council subsequently withdrew its offer to consult, and had another request to avoid being a defendant refused by the alliance, which is now seeking its costs for the wasted hearing date from the authority.
Mr Howarth said: “The council’s participation in the case has revealed an interesting disagreement between two of the defendants. Before November’s hearing, the local authority disclosed documents in which it claimed the right to dispose of the king’s remains, as they were found on its property, an assertion the university disputes.”
Permission for the judicial review was granted at the High Court last August by Mr Justice Haddon-Cave, who said the alliance’s case “self-evidently raises matters of general public importance” and therefore deserved to be heard. He also suggested, however, that the parties put the matter to an independent expert panel for adjudication instead, but the ministry and university later refused to do this, despite the alliance agreeing.
Mr Howarth said: “Quite why our opponents have declined the obviously sensible option of independent adjudication, preferring to incur substantial legal costs – including for the taxpayer – and tie-up considerable court time, is inexplicable.
“Despite my client being a not-for-profit entity, my firm having done a great deal of work for it free-of-charge, and the far better resourced opposition we face, the judiciary has clearly recognised we have a legitimate argument. Although many people are astonished we’ve got this far, we’ll therefore go to the hearing on Thursday with every confidence in our position, intending to state our case clearly and believing there’s every chance the licence will be quashed.
“If that happens, the odds about the king eventually being laid to rest in York will shorten dramatically.”
More details of the campaign to have King Richard III’s remains buried in York can be found at http://kingrichardcampaign.org.uk/