Descendants of Richard III secure Judicial Review of decisions over exhumation and re-burial in Leicester

Friday 16th August 2013

Click here for coverage of the case in the Law Society Gazette

Click here for coverage of the case in The Lawyer

Collateral descendants of King Richard III, campaigning to have his remains buried in York, have won a stunning victory in the High Court.

Plantagenet Alliance Limited, spearheaded by 15 of the king’s collateral descendants, has won the right to have the decisions authorising the exhuming and reinterring of his remains in Leicester judicially reviewed at a hearing in London, likely to take place later this year and last a full day.

Mr Justice Haddon-Cave, after examining papers relating to the case, has agreed with the Alliance on all the grounds it raised for requesting the review. He concurred that the group had an arguable case – the threshold test for permission for the hearing to be granted – and sufficient standing for bringing the claim.

He also agreed that the issues the Alliance had raised were of national importance and that it had been correct in wanting to press the Secretary of State for Justice and the University of Leicester for proper disclosure. He ordered those bodies to release more papers to the group.

In addition, the judge granted the Plantagenet Alliance a protective costs order, meaning that if it loses at the hearing it does not have to pay costs to the Secretary of State for Justice or University. However, if the Alliance is victorious, the opponents will have to pay their own costs as well as the costs of the Alliance – the level of which will be determined by a further Court ruling next month.

Matthew Howarth, the partner and judicial review expert at Yorkshire law firm Gordons representing the Alliance, said: “This is a stunning result for our client. We’ve believed all along that we had an arguable case and fulfilled all the other requirements for a hearing to take place. This viewpoint has now been vindicated handsomely.”

Specifically, the Plantagenet Alliance is challenging the Secretary of State for Justice’s decision to grant the “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 Alliance is seeking that the licence be quashed. The Alliance argues, amongst other things, that the Secretary of State for Justice failed to consult sufficiently or take into account the wishes of the King’s descendants and the King’s own wishes (if they can be determined) when issuing the licence and that such a failure was unlawful and arguably constitutes a breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to respect for private and family life).

The Alliance’s Stephen Nicolay, a sixteenth great nephew of the monarch, said: “We’re delighted to receive such comprehensive backing for our case. The latest decisions are not final victories, but they do represent major steps towards Richard’s remains being brought to their rightful final resting place in York.

“We’re very grateful to Matthew and his team for bringing our case successfully to this point and have every confidence in their ability to secure what we consider a just outcome.”

An e-petition on the website, calling for King Richard III’s remains to be re-interred in York, opened last September, has so far been signed by almost 27,500 people. A similar petition backing a re-burial in Leicester has attracted just over 8,000 signatures.

More details of the campaign to have King Richard III’s remains buried in York can be found at