"This case undoubtedly has unique and exceptional features which arguably call for special consideration. It is why the claim has reached this Court. The archaeological discovery of the mortal remains of a King of England after 500 years may fairly be described as 'unprecedented'."
Judgment of the High Court of Justice, 23 May 2014 - Lady Justice Hallett (Vice President of the Queen's Bench Division), Mr Justice Ouseley and Mr Justice Haddon-Cave.
In a 40 page judgment, the High Court of Justice dismissed the claim for judicial review against the Secretary of State for Justice which had been brought by The Plantagenet Alliance, an entity established by the 16th great-nephew of Richard III.
"In our judgment, the licence means that Leicester Cathedral is the only place in which ULAS [University of Leicester Archaeological Services] can inter the remains of Richard III."
The main claim had been that the Secretary of State had acted unfairly as a matter of public law in not consulting on the whereabouts for the re-interment of the remains of Richard III. The High Court rejected that claim and decided that the Secretary of State had had enough information before him to make a rational decision when granting the original exhumation licence under section 25 of the Burials Act 1857.
A subsidiary claim under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights was abandoned as it was "doomed to fail" (paragraph 134).
The claim against the University of Leicester was dismissed as the University could not be said "to have been exercising a public function at any stage in relation to the exhumation, retention and re-interment of the remains of Richard III. The University was under no duty to consult." (paragraph 162)
Equally, Leicester City Council had no duty to consult and its "intervention as the 'legal sentinel' of Richard III's bones was unnecessary, unhelpful and misconceived."
As a postscript, the High Court noted that:
"Since Richard III's exhumation on 5th September 2012, passions have been roused and much ink spilt" over the issues, noting in the judgment that the matter had even been debated in Parliament. In the view of the High Court, "it is time for Richard III to be given a dignified reburial, and finally laid to rest."