Last week Mike Pitts, author of Digging For Richard III (to be published in May 2014), spent one and a half days at the Royal Courts of Justice covering the judicial review of the reburial of Richard III’s remains – here is an extract from his website.
It is 10.30.
The three judges enter from the back. We all stand and bow, and then we sit, except one. Olivier begins.
He introduces the parties and proposes a summary of their positions, ‘I hope fairly’. The Plantagenet Alliance believes the licence issued by the Ministry of Justice, under which Richard III’s remains were excavated, was inadequate to the job. In such exceptional circumstances, there should have been a consultation about where the remains were to be reburied. Instead, the Secretary of State simply left the decision to Leicester University.
But almost at once, Lady Justice Hallett, flanked by her male colleagues, interrupts. She seeks clarification about the nature of the consultation the Alliance proposes.
‘We have never suggested’, says Mr Clarke, ‘and we do not suggest, a come-one come-all… that would be absurd.’
Her Lady Justice persists. Who would be consulted? English Heritage? Various churches? Distant relatives? Any other groups?
Mr Clarke refers to tab 53, bundle 12, process document October 2012, council documents… Do you say modern culture community? interjects her Lady Justice. Leicester? Are you asking for a public consultation?
Yes, says Mr Clarke… but differently weighted. Someone ‘writing in green ink from Australia’ would carry very little weight; York, Leicester, maybe more weight.
‘What form of consultation do you have in mind?’
Mr Clarke suggests something on a website.
‘What exactly are you saying?’
He continues to appear evasive. The Secretary of State for Justice did not inform himself before the decision about reburial, he replies. One way to do that is a public consultation. We are asking for the right to be consulted.
What, asks her Lady Justice, might be the consequences if you are successful? Would the licence be quashed? Or is it the failure to revisit that concerns you?
‘Substantially the latter’, says Mr Clarke.
Already, I’m puzzled. If Mr Clarke’s famed eloquence has yet to win the trust of her Lady Justice, what is Matthew Howarth thinking, sitting motionless and expressionless behind his barristers, his chin in his left hand? ‘The alliance’s lawyers will argue on Thursday,’ said his firm’s press release issued ahead of the hearing, that ‘the failure to adopt appropriate consultation was unlawful and amounted to breaches by the ministry, university and city council which should cause the licence’s terms to be quashed.’ Quashed: the word used by her Lady Justice, but now apparently largely dismissed by Mr Clarke. Was the release a ploy to confuse the enemy? Has the Alliance changed its tack? Or are barrister and solicitor not in full communication?
Read the full article on Mike Pitt’s website.
Digging for Richard III is the page-turning story of how his grave was found, the people behind the discovery and what it tells us. It is the first complete narrative of a project that blended passion, science, luck and detection.
Available in May for £18.95 from the Thames & Hudson website.