Supreme Court rules in R (Evans) v HM Attorney General
The Supreme Court today handed down judgment in R (Evans) v HM Attorney General, deciding that 27 of Prince Charles’ letters to Government departments (the so-called “black spider letters”) should be released.
The initial request was made 10 years ago by Guardian journalist Rob Evans under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR). After an Upper Tribunal ruling in 2012 that the letters should be released in so far as they constituted “advocacy correspondence”, the Attorney General issued a certificate under section 53(2) FOIA and regulation 18(6) EIR stating that he had, on “reasonable grounds”, formed the opinion that the departments had been entitled to refuse to disclose the letters.
The Supreme Court found, by a majority of 5:2 that the Attorney General was not entitled to issue the certificate in the manner that he did and the certificate therefore was invalid. By a majority of 6:1 the Supreme Court also found regulation 18(6) EIR to be incompatible with the relevant EU Directive, and therefore the certificate was invalid in respect of environmental information.
The Government and Clarence House have expressed disappointment with the decision. Mr Evans, the Guardian and others have welcomed it. The ICO has also issued a statement welcoming the decision.
A full 5RB case report on the decision can be found here.
Supreme Court – Judgment and press summary
Sky News – Charles’ black spider memos to be published