The High Court has rejected a judicial review bid by a journalist to reveal correspondence between the Prince of Wales Prince Charles and government ministers.
Guardian journalist Rob Evans turned to Blackstone Chambers’ Dinah Rose QC after the attorney general Dominic Grieve imposed a veto on the publication of the letters despite a freedom of information (FOI) tribunal finding that it would be in the public interest.
Jonathan Swift QC of 11KBW was instructed by the Treasury Solicitor to respond to the case while Timothy Pitt-Payne QC of 11KBW was instructed for the intervener, the Information Commissioner.
The long-running battle relates to a 2005 FOI request by Evans to access letters that were written from Prince Charles to ministers between 2004 and 2005.
The initial request was rejected, but a challenge by the Guardian reversed that decision last September. The attorney general stepped in and overruled the decision, claiming that to publish the letters would undermine the Prince’s political political neutrality.
Rose had argued that the attorney general’s veto was unlawful.
Lord Justice Davis and Mr Justice Globe supported the decision of the Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge and rejected the application, finding that Grieve had acted in the public interest.
The Lord Chief Justice, however, raised concerns about the powers of ministers to override judicial decisions.
“The possibility that a minister of the Crown may lawfully override the decision of a superior court of record involves what appears to be a constitutional aberration,” Judge LCJ stated.
“This problem is inherent in the statutory override or veto vested in ministers and the Attorney General by s.53 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act).”
The legal lineup
For the claimant, Rob Evans
Blackstone Chambers’ Dinah Rose QC leading One Brick Court’s Aidan Eardley, instructed by Guardian News and Media
For the defendant, attorney general Dominic Grieve
11KBW’s Jonathan Swift QC leading Julian Milford of the same set, instructed by Treasury Solicitors
For the interested party, the Information Commissioner
11KBW’s Timothy Pitt-Payne QC, instructed by the Information Commissioner’s Office directly