UK Courts Upholds Secrecy for Prince Charles’ Letters

12 July 2013

The British High Court on July 9 refused to overturn a government decision to block the disclosure of Prince Charles’ correspondence with government departments.

The UK Attorney General Dominic Grieve in October 2012 has vetoed the release of 27 letters sent by Prince Charles to seven government departments. A FOI tribunal court had ruled that the letters were “advocacy correspondence” and should be disclosed to the requester, Guardian journalist Rob Evans. (See previous FreedomInfo.org report.)

The High Court decided that Grieve had acted in the public interest, as summarized in an article in The Lawyer and another in the Guardian. The lord chief justice, however, commented on the veto power itself, calling it “a constitutional aberration.” The Guardian is intending to appeal.

Maurice Frankel, the director of the Campaign for Freedom of Information said in a statement:

“The Lord Chief Justice has highlighted the scale and power of the ministerial veto which it says could even be used to overturn a decision of the Supreme Court – a situation unprecedented in domestic law. The only, very limited safeguard is judicial review.

But as this case shows, the veto will be upheld at judicial review even if the disclosure decision is thorough and well argued and contains no error or flaw. Ministers don’t have to show they are right and the tribunal or court is wrong, only that they have reasonable grounds for taking a different view about the public interest.

The veto is a powerful tool and judicial review too limited a safeguard. Ministers should have to appeal against decisions they dislike and not be able simply to overturn them.”

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