The Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has revealed how a judicial review into the decision to bury Richard III’s recently discovered remains in Leicester where they were found will cost the taxpayer £175,000.
The remains of King Richard III of England were discovered buried underneath a car park in Leicester in September 2012, after a lengthy search by a project entitled ‘Looking for Richard’ and coordinated by the University of Leicester Archaeological Services.
The remains were found in what is believed to be the site of the old Greyfriars Church, and showed that the King had died on the battlefield from mortal wounds to his skull probably inflicted by a sword and a halberd.
The team then used mitochondrial DNA which is passed down the maternal line only to identify the remains from known modern-day descendants.
However, controversy was sparked over whether the remains should be buried in Leicester where they were found, or be moved to York, which is the ceremonial home of the Kings of the period of Richard III’s reign.
The High Court decided that the remains should stay in Leicester, despite a legal challenge from distant relatives who have formed a campaign group called the Plantagenet Alliance.
The judges ruled that there was no public interest in having a wide-ranging consultation into the burial.
“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,” said Mr Grayling.
The Plantagenet Alliance created a shell company with no assets to bring the judicial review, something that drew particular ire from the Justice Secretary, who confirmed that plans were afoot to review the whole judicial review process.
“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,” said Mr Grayling.
Mr Grayling criticised the ‘ridiculous’ case, saying it was a perfect example of how the judicial review system can be exploited to cause huge legal bills for the UK taxpayer.
Judicial reviews can be used to challenge the way publically funded bodies make decisions to ensure that decisions are taken fairly. However they can be used for some seemingly spurious purposes as well.
A spokesman said the case had cost the Ministry of Justice £90,000 and the local council £85,000, plus the cost of a three-day hearing which is thought to have pushed the final bill over £200,000.
However, a lawyer for the Alliance said that the costs were driven by the MoJ’s processes, and criticised the Government for using four different barristers including a top Queen’s Counsel.
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