York v Leicester: Let battle commence….
Today sees the start of the delayed two day final hearing in the Judicial Review claim brought by the Plantagenet Alliance (PAL) to challenge the decision of the Justice Secretary to grant the University of Leicester an exhumation licence permitting them to reinter the remains of Richard III at Leicester Cathedral (“the Licence”).
The PAL will argue that the Justice Secretary, who at the time the Licence was granted was Kenneth Clarke, failed to consult over where the remains of Richard III should be laid to rest and as a result the granting of the Licence was unlawful. The PAL has passionately argued that Richard III, the last King of the House of York, should be reinterred in York Minister. This week has even seen parades through the city of York in support of PAL.
The Defendants in the case, the University of Leicester, the Justice Secretary and Leicester City Council, will argue that the Licence was granted lawfully. Leicester City Council has already started work on a £4 million visitor centre and Leicester Cathedral is set to invest £1.3 million in reburial plans for the King. There has also been a show of support in Leicester this week with members of the public linking arms around a statute of the monarch in the city’s Castle Gardens.
The court will most likely reserve Judgment at the end of the two day hearing meaning that they will not release the Judgment straight away. However in making its Judgment the court has effectively two options, one to uphold the Licence and declare the process followed by the Justice Secretary as lawful or, two, to declare the granting of the Licence unlawful. Importantly the court cannot decide where Richard III should be reinterred.
When permission to proceed with the Judicial Review claim was granted in August 2013, Mr Justice Haddon Cave recommended that the parties refer the issues in dispute to an independent advisory body made up of suitable experts who could consult with interested parties and make recommendations regarding the reburial of the remains of Richard III. This proposal was rejected by the Justice Secretary.
Over a year has now passed since the remains located in a Council car park in Leicester were declared to be those of Richard III and there is still no resolution to this unfortunate dispute. The Licence states that the remains must be reinterred by 31 August 2014. However in view of the uncertainty that will still remain after the court delivers its Judgment, it is unlikely that the King’s remains will be finally laid to rest by 31 August 2014.