An unprecedented legal battle got underway yesterday as Richard III’s distant relatives asked three High Court judges to rule Justice Secretary Chris Grayling was under a legal duty to allow talks on his burial place “and do it fairly.”
Richard’s battle-scarred bones were discovered under a council car park in Leicester and the current plan is for them to be reinterred at the city’s cathedral. But The Plantagenet Alliance Ltd, formed by the distant relatives, want the remains to be buried at York Minster, claiming that was the wish “of the last medieval king of England.”
Their counsel Gerard Clarke told London’s High Court yesterday the alliance would be satisfied with a wide-ranging public consultation exercise on where the king’s final resting place should be.
Mr Clarke told Lady Justice Hallett, Mr Justice Ouseley and Mr Justice Haddon-Cave views should be obtained from the Crown, and groups including English Heritage, relevant churches, other public bodies “and those who claim a family relationship with the late king.”
He suggested that Leicester, York and Westminster could be among the choices.
Prior to the hearing Matthew Howarth, the partner and judicial review expert at Yorkshire law firm Gordons representing the alliance, 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.
“Although many people are astonished we’ve got this far, we’ll go to the hearing 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.”
Mr Clarke told yesterday’s hearing the Justice Secretary had made a legally flawed decision that there was no obligation to consult.
He said: “Our lead point is the Secretary of State’s decision is flawed because he did not sufficiently inform himself of the relevant factors before he made that decision.”
He said the Alliance was not expecting the court itself to say where the king should be reburied. He told the judges parts of the media had suggested the Alliance’s application for judicial review was “a costly, silly argument about nothing”, but it mattered because of the importance of the history of the monarchy to the country.
At the heart of the case is a Ministry of Justice decision to grant a “section 25 licence” under the Burial Act giving archaeologists from the University of Leicester licence to excavate, and the university permission to decide where to rebury the remains, some 19 months ago.
The university announced it intended the reburial would take place in Leicester Cathedral.
• The Yorkshire Post is supporting camapigners who want the monarch’s remains returned to the county.
Campaigners argue there is evidence he may have been intending York Minster as his mausoleum and want his remains to be buried in the city.
However The University of Leicester has said it is committed to the reinterment of King Richard III in Leicester, underpinned by a licence granted by the Ministry of Justice.
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