Senior judges have ruled that letters Prince Charles wrote to government ministers should be released to the public. 

The Supreme Court has today upheld the decision that the Attorney General’s use of the ministerial veto to block the publication of the letters was unlawful.

Judges in the court of appeal had previously ruled that Dominic Grieve, the Attorney General at the time, should not have used the ministerial veto to block the publication of the letters. However, the government challenged the court’s view, which led to today’s ruling being made.

The ruling will now pave the way for letters written by Prince Charles, to eight government departments, in 2006, to be released.

The letters, known as the Blackspider memos (due to the Prince’s scrawling handwriting), were originally requested under the Freedom of Information Act 10 years ago by the Guardian Newspaper.

In total Charles had written letters to eight government ministers expressing his views on certain topics.

Journalists Rob Evans, supported by the newspaper’s lawyers, challenged multiple government attempts to block the publication of the letters.

The Supreme Court’s ruling said that a majority decision of 5 to 2 decided that the letters should be disclosed.

“The Supreme Court dismisses the Attorney General’s appeal. By a majority of 5:2 the Court considers that the Attorney General was not entitled to issue a certificate under section 53 FOIA 2000 in the manner that he did and therefore that the Certificate was invalid,” the court’s judgement said.

“By a majority of 6:1 the Court holds that reg.18(6) is incompatible with the 2003 Directive and must be treated as invalid, and therefore that the Certificate would in any event have been invalid insofar as it related to environmental information.”

Last year the Court of Appeal ruled that Dominic Grieve’s use of the ministerial veto, to block the letters publication, was unlawful.

The previous court decision said that Grieve “could point to no error of law or fact in the [tribunal’s] decision, and the government departments concerned did not even seek permission to appeal it”.

Today’s ruling by the Supreme Court upholds the decision of the Court of Appeal.

 


A full background to the case can be found here. 

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.