Tug-of-war over Richard III heads for courts

Judicial review row reignited as parties cross swords over former king of England

After more than 500 years the question of where Richard III’s body should be interred is going to the courts.

The success of Yorkshire firm Gordons, on behalf of a group describing themselves as the king’s ‘descendants’, in persuading Mr Justice Haddon-Cave that there should be a judicial review (JR), has sparked intense debate.

The rows are not simply over the final resting place – many commentators feel the JR process is a waste of money. And this after a sustained attack on the JR process by the Government itself.

In 2011 there were more than 11,000 JR applications, mostly immigration or asylum cases. Only 10.9 per cent were granted and just 14.3 per cent of those were successful. Statistically speaking then, Richard III’s descendants have a minimal chance of success.

And then there is the question of costs. Although Haddon-Cave J has capped claimant costs and prevented the defendants from recovering costs, public money is being spent on the Government’s defence of the review and on the court hearings.

In the current economy, is public money really best spent on a 500-year-old king who, until September last year, was buried under a car park?

On the other hand, process is there to be followed and if the Ministry of Justice issued the licence to exhume the remains without proper consultation, it failed to follow the right path.

JRs are supposed to unearth procedural irregularity, and that should apply whatever the case.