Court rejects challenge over Richard III's bones

Friday 23 May 2014 14.45
Richard III's bones were found in 2012
Richard III's bones were found in 2012

The British High Court has ruled it is time for the remains of Richard III "to be given a dignified reburial, and finally laid to rest" in Leicester Cathedral.

Richard's battle-scarred bones were found under a council car park in Leicester in 2012.

Three judges rejected a bid by distant relatives of the king who form the Plantagent Alliance to force Justice Secretary Chris Grayling to set up a wide-ranging public consultation exercise to decide where his final resting place should be.

The costly legal challenge has led to angry condemnation of the alliance by Mr Grayling.

There was applause at Leicester Cathedral as Bishop of Leicester Tim Stevens read out the result to a crowd of supporters and media.

The alliance claimed the exhumation licence granted by the Justice Secretary in September 2012 to the University of Leicester was legally flawed because he had not attached conditions ordering consultations on re-interment.

It also challenged decisions of Leicester City Council and the university regarding the making of arrangements for re-interment in Leicester Cathedral.

The alliance indicated it wanted the remains to be buried at York Minster, claiming that was the wish "of the last medieval king of England", who was known as Richard of York.

The distant relatives' counsel Gerard Clarke told the court at a recent hearing they would be satisfied if a consultation exercise was launched, and suggested Queen Elizabeth II and royal household should be at the top of the list of consultees.

Mr Clarke said it should also include the distant relatives themselves as well as members of the public.

He said the issue was important as the last English king to die in battle "is not just any old bones".

But Lady Justice Hallett, sitting with Mr Justice Ouseley and Mr Justice Haddon-Cave, ruled at London's High Court the legal challenge had failed and there were no public law grounds for interfering with the plans for reburial at Leicester Cathedral.

The three judges said in a joint ruling: "Since Richard III's exhumation on 5th September 2012, passions have been roused and much ink has been spilt.

"Issues relating to his life and death and place of re-interment have been exhaustively examined and debated.

"The Very Reverend David Monteith, the Dean of Leicester Cathedral, has explained the considerable efforts and expenditure invested by the cathedral in order to create a lasting burial place 'as befits an anointed king'."

"We agree that it is time for Richard III to be given a dignified reburial, and finally laid to rest."

In Leicester Bishop Stevens said: "We are, of course, delighted. Here in the cathedral, in the diocese, in the city, in the county, we've waited a long time for this."

He said plans for the reinterment that had been on hold could now progress.

It is currently unclear whether or not the Alliance will seek to appeal. Any further matters stemming from the judgment will be dealt with at a later date.

Welcoming the court ruling, Mr Grayling said: "I have been very clear from the start that the decision to grant an exhumation licence for Richard III was taken correctly and in line with the law.

"I am pleased the court has reached the same conclusion and comprehensively rejected all of the claimant's arguments.

"I am, however, frustrated and angry that the Plantagenet Alliance - a group with tenuous claims to being relatives of Richard III - have taken up so much time and public money.

"This case, brought by a shell company set up by the Alliance to avoid paying legal costs, is an example of exactly why the Government is bringing forward a package of reforms to the judicial review process."

Richard was killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 - ending the Wars of the Roses and the Plantagenet dynasty.

His body was taken to Leicester by supporters of the victorious Henry VII and buried in Greyfriars church, now the site of the council car park.

Keywords: richard iii