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Legal move stops High Court ruling on Richard

29 November 2013

Rui Vieira/PA Wire

Fallen: The memorial stone to King Richard III, inside Leicester Cathedral

Fallen: The memorial stone to King Richard III, inside Leicester Cathedral

A LEGAL hearing this week that could have determined whether the remains of Richard III should be buried in Leicester Cathedral was halted prematurely amid procedural confusion.

The High Court had been due to hear a challenge by the Plantagenet Alliance, a group of 15 descendants of the Yorkist monarch, to the original licence given by the Department of Justice to Leicester University to search for the King's remains beneath a car park in the city.

The Alliance is campaigning for them to be buried in York Minster, and says that a proper consultation had not been carried out by the Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, before approving the excavation.

But when the three sides gathered at the Royal Courts of Justice in London on Tuesday of last week, the Alliance made a late application for Leicester City Council to be added to the parties.

The counsel for the Alliance, Gerard Clarke QC, said that unless the council was directly involved, there was no legal obligation for it to comply with any judgment the court might hand down. He said that the council, as the owner of the land where the King's skeleton was discovered in August 2012, potentially had a claim to the remains if the exhumation licence was annulled.

The three judges hearing the case agreed, but expressed concern about the circumstances. Lady Justice Hallett, presiding, said that the application was not in the interests of a speedy resolution. Ordering an adjournment, she said: "It gives me no pleasure to grant your application. . . We need to get on with it; but there is clearly an issue to be determined as to whether Leicester City Council has a role to play."

After the hearing, a spokesman for Leicester Council said: "The council responded to a very late application by the Plantagenet Alliance to add us as a defendant to the case. This did not allow sufficient time for the matter to be decided today, and the court has adjourned the proceedings into the New Year."

A spokeswoman for Leicester Cathedral said: "It's disappointing that it's come to this. We have worked as a partnership, and discussed everything, but we did not know about this until today."

Professor Mark Thompson, the Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor at the University of Leicester, said: "We had hoped to have this resolved by Christmas."

Earlier this month, the Cathedrals Fabrics Commission for England postponed until the New Year its consideration of plans for the reordering of Leicester Cathedral to accommodate Richard's tomb (News, 22 November).

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