Prince Charles letters: Attorney General's block ruled unlawful

The ruling was the latest in a nine-year attempt to make letters between the Prince and ministers public
  • @cahalmilmo

The Attorney General is to appeal to Britain’s highest court after suffering a comprehensive defeat in his attempts to prevent letters written by Prince Charles to ministers being made public.

Dominic Grieve, the Government’s chief legal adviser, was told yesterday by the Court of Appeal that his decision to veto a ruling by a tribunal that the letters should be published was “unlawful”  and contrary to both British and European law.

The ruling was the latest twist in a nine-year battle by The Guardian newspaper to force the disclosure of communications between the heir to the throne and ministers on the grounds that any attempts by the prince to influence government policy or decisions should be subject to public scrutiny.

Journalist Rob Evans won a ruling in 2012 by the Upper Tribunal of the Information Commissioner, a High Court body which sits on Freedom of Information (FOI) Act disputes, that it was in the public interest that the letters written to seven Whitehall departments between 2005 and 2006 to be disclosed.

But Mr Grieve then used his powers under the FOI Act to issue a “certificate” annulling the Upper Tribunal ruling and saying the  departments had been legally entitled to refuse disclosure because the correspondence was part of the prince’s “preparation for becoming king”.

The letters were said to contain the prince’s “most deeply-held personal views and beliefs”, and their disclosure would “seriously damage” his ability to perform his duties as king because of the doubt it would cast on his political neutrality, according to Mr Grieve.

The Master of the Rolls, Lord Dyson, yesterday overturned that decision, saying that Mr Grieve had had “no reasonable grounds” for deciding to issue the certificate and it had been unlawful to do so under both British and European rules.

Despite the setback for the Government, the battle will continue after Mr Grieve said he will appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court, Britain’s highest court.

In a statement, the Attorney General said: “We are very disappointed by the decision of the court. We will be pursuing an appeal to the Supreme Court in order to protect the important principles which are at stake in this case.”