Richard III reburial battle ‘could drag on until August’

A legal fight over where the remains of Richard III should be reinterred may not be resolved until next summer, according to the lawyer representing a group of the king's distant relatives who are campaigning to see him reburied in York.

Copyright University of Leicester

A legal fight over where the remains of Richard III should be reinterred may not be resolved until next summer, according to the lawyer representing a group of the king's distant relatives who are campaigning to see him reburied in York.

A judicial review, which was due to take place on Tuesday, was adjourned after the court agreed to allow Leicester City Council to make representations as a party.

The judicial review will examine the justice secretary’s decision to authorise the exhumation and reinterment of the monarch’s remains in Leicester. It has been brought by the Plantagenet Alliance Limited, which is made up of 15 of the king’s distant relatives.

The group, represented by judicial review expert Matthew Howarth, is challenging the justice secretary's decision not to consult further before granting a licence to the University of Leicester to excavate the remains. It wants to see the licence, which allows the university to decide where the remains are reinterred, quashed.

Richard's skeleton was discovered beneath a Leicester council car park last September, 527 years after he was killed at the battle of Bosworth. The remains were announced as being those of the last Plantagenet king in February following extensive examination.

Copyright University of Leicester

As an organisation closely involved in the discovery, the University of Leicester holds a Ministry of Justice ‘section 25 licence’ that allows it to decide where the remains are reinterred. The university decided upon Leicester Cathedral.

Matthew Howarth, partner at Yorkshire law firm Gordons, said: “We invited Leicester City Council to join as a defendant before yesterday’s hearing, but they refused.

“It’s a shame the judges had to force them to adopt this status, as the compulsion made the adjournment unavoidable.

“This outcome means many people who had travelled to London anticipating a full hearing effectively had their often long and expensive journeys wasted.

“The local authority’s failure to accept the inevitable voluntarily will also mean additional expense, including for the Ministry of Justice and the taxpayer.

“We will certainly be seeking the costs of making yesterday’s application from the council.”

A statement from the University of Leicester read: “The University of Leicester is committed to the reinterment of King Richard III in Leicester, as stated in the licence granted to us by the Ministry of Justice.

“The University of Leicester discovered the king through the expertise of its archaeological work and subsequent scientific investigation.

“We are of the opinion, and have put forward a convincing case, in line with the terms of the licence, that the King who was buried in Leicester over 500 years ago should remain in the city, and indeed in the very parish, in which he was buried."

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