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The Court of Appeal has ruled that letters sent by Prince Charles to government ministers should be disclosed.

This ruling follows a nine year Freedom of Information battle by the Guardian and journalist Rob Evans to disclose the royal’s correspondence with government officials and reveal the level of influence that the Prince has.

The courts decision overturns a ministerial veto put in place after a tribunal also said the information should be made public.

The Campaign for Freedom of Information has said that the decision will make it harder for ministers to overturn tribunal cases in the future.

The Campaign’s director Maurice Frankel said:

“The FOI Act has an elaborate appeal process, which the government could have used to challenge a decision it believed was wrong. Instead it has attempted to squash the decision, bypassing the need to argue its case, by use of a veto. The court’s ruling will make it much harder for government to override a well argued tribunal case in future.

“Disagreeing with the decision will not be enough, it will have to show why the decision is flawed or that circumstances have changed since it was reached. That is a major improvement to the public’s right to know.”

The Court of Appeal has also ruled that the veto cannot apply to environmental information at all. “This fundamentally strengthens the public’s rights to know what public authorities are doing about environmental issues,” Mr Frankel said.

However the Attorney General’s office quickly responded to the decision to say that they would be taking the case to the next level – so it looks like we may have to wait longer for the documents to be made public.

We are disappointed by the decision in the Evans (Prince of Wales letters) case. To protect the principles at stake we will pursue an appeal

 

Since the original request was made by Evans the FOI Act has been amended to exclude any further communication between royals and ministers so any similar requests would be rejected.

Democratic campaign group Republic have criticised the change to the Act following the latest ruling. They said:

“If a similar freedom of information request were made now it would fall at the first hurdle thanks to an absolute bar on the release of royal letters.”

“Royals now have the complete freedom to lobby the government in secret and on whatever issue they choose.  This has nothing to do with their royal duties and everything to do with the Windsor family protecting their own interests and pursuing their own agendas.”

“The law must be now be changed to allow the public to know when and how Charles and other members of his family are lobbying our government.”

The full judgement can be seen here:

Ruling Prince Charles' letters – Court of Appeal

Featured image by: Photo Mage 

I am a journalist and author. I am a staff writer at the UK edition of WIRED magazine and in 2015 my book, Freedom of Information: A Practical Guide for UK Journalists, was published. I created FOI Directory in 2012.