The ‘Black Spider Memos’ Case: An Introduction to Constitutional Law

In a talk I recently gave at the Cambridge Sixth Form Law Conference, I introduced delegates to UK Constitutional Law by way of examining the ‘Black Spider Memos’ case. The Supreme Court’s judgment in that case — more formally known as R (Evans) v Attorney-General [2015] UKSC 21 — came at the end of a long saga involving attempts by Guardian journalist Rob Evans to get hold of so-called advocacy correspondence between Prince Charles and Government Ministers. Evans’s concern was that through such correspondence, Charles may have been seeking to shape Government policy; Evans argued that it was important that people should be able to see what Charles … Continue reading The ‘Black Spider Memos’ Case: An Introduction to Constitutional Law

A postscript on the Evans case: The report of the Independent Commission on Freedom of Information and the Government’s response

The so-called black-spider memos written by Prince Charles to Government Ministers turned out to be rather more pedestrian than many had anticipated. But the judgment of the Supreme Court in R (Evans) v Attorney-General [2015] UKSC 21, handed down in March 2015, requiring the disclosure of the correspondence, was anything but pedestrian. Indeed, as I have argued in another blogpost and in an article in Public Law, the judgment reveals substantial differences of constitutional perspective within the Court. The case turned upon the question whether it had been lawful for the Attorney-General, under powers granted to the Government by the … Continue reading A postscript on the Evans case: The report of the Independent Commission on Freedom of Information and the Government’s response

New paper: A Tangled Constitutional Web — The Black-Spider Memos and the British Constitution’s Relational Architecture

I have written before about the Evans case concerning the Government’s attempt to block the release under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 of correspondence between the Prince of Wales and Ministers. I have now completed work on an article on this case that will appear in the October 2015 issue of the journal Public Law. The abstract of the article is as follows: This paper examines the decision of the UK Supreme Court in R (Evans) v Attorney-General [2015] UKSC 21, [2015] 2 WLR 813. The case, which concerned the legality of the UK Government’s attempt to block the disclosure under … Continue reading New paper: A Tangled Constitutional Web — The Black-Spider Memos and the British Constitution’s Relational Architecture

Of Black Spiders and Constitutional Bedrock: The Supreme Court’s Judgment in Evans

The legal saga concerning the “black-spider memos” that Prince Charles is in the habit of sending to Ministers, inflicting upon them his often-eccentric views, is a long one. It has its origins in freedom-of-information requests issued to several Government departments by a Guardian journalist. Disclosure was sought of “advocacy correspondence” — that is, letters setting out Charles’s views about matters of public policy — sent to the relevant Departments by Charles in the mid-2000s. Today, such requests would be doomed to failure, since section 37 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 was amended in 2010 so as to render communications with the heir to the throne absolutely exempt from disclosure. However, that amendment does not bite upon the correspondence that is the subject of the present proceedings. In a path-breaking decision issued in 2012, the Administrative Appeals Chamber of the Upper Tribunal ordered the release of the letters, holding that the constitutional role of the heir to the throne was not such as to generate a public-interest justification for withholding them. Continue reading “Of Black Spiders and Constitutional Bedrock: The Supreme Court’s Judgment in Evans

Reasonableness review and the Court of Appeal’s decision in the Prince Charles correspondence case

I have written before about the saga concerning the disclosure of so-called advocacy correspondence sent by Prince Charles to Government Departments: in particular, about the Upper Tribunal’s decision, holding that the correspondence had to be released under the Freedom of Information Act 2000; the Attorney-General’s subsequent decision to use the “veto” power under that Act to block disclosure in spite of the Tribunal decision; and, most recently, the Administrative Court’s decision upholding the lawfulness of the Attorney-General’s exercise of the veto power. I will not, therefore, attempt to summarise the issues or the history, which can be found in my earlier posts on this subject. Continue reading “Reasonableness review and the Court of Appeal’s decision in the Prince Charles correspondence case”

Prince Charles, freedom of information, judicial review and the separation of powers: R (Evans) v Attorney-General

The Administrative Court gave judgment earlier today in R (Evans) v Attorney-General [2013] EWHC 1960 (Admin). The case concerns a challenge to the legality of the Attorney-General’s decision to use s 53 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to block the disclosure of letters written to Ministers by Prince Charles. The s 53 veto was issued in order to avoid having to release the letters following a decision by the Upper Tribunal holding that the public interest required their disclosure. I have commented in previous posts on the decision of the Upper Tribunal and on the Attorney-General’s decision to override that decision by invoking s 53. Continue reading “Prince Charles, freedom of information, judicial review and the separation of powers: R (Evans) v Attorney-General”