Leicester City Council and university at odds over who owns Richard III's bones
By Leicester Mercury | Posted: November 28, 2013
By Peter Warzynski
A disagreement over who legally owns the remains of Richard III has broken out between Leicester City Council and the University of Leicester.
Both parties are claiming they are the rightful guardians of the former monarch's remains.
The council has said that as the owner of the land where the bones were found, it has control.
However, the university insists it has ownership as it holds the Ministry of Justice exhumation licence which gives it the power to rebury the bones where it chooses.
The dispute arose during a judicial review into the licence at the High Court on Tuesday.
The review was set up to hear a legal challenge launched by the Plantagenet Alliance, 15 people who claim to be relatives of the king and want his bones reinterred in York.
Norman Palmer QC, representing the council, told the court the authority regarded itself as the official owner of the remains – bringing the hearing to an abrupt end.
High Court judge Lady Justice Hallett said she had no choice but to adjourn the hearing to allow all parties to process the new information and to change the city council's position in the proceedings from "interested party" to "third defendant" – something the council did not want to happen.
Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby said: "Our lawyers told us that, technically, we have ownership.
"But it's my view there are more important things to worry about.
"Whatever the lawyers may say, the ownership of the king's remains is irrelevant.
"What matters is that we get the appropriate decision in the judicial review."
A spokesman for the university said its position was the same as always, and it considered itself the "custodian" of the king's remains.
Leicester East MP Keith Vaz, who practiced as a solicitor before being elected to parliament, was in the courtroom to watch the review.
He urged the university and the city council to resolve the issue to avoid making it even more complex and costly.
"Speaking as a former lawyer, once this kind of thing gets into the hands of the QCs, God help us," he said.
"It is a very complex issue. Who owns the bones could be argued strongly either way.
"What I suggest is the council and university get together and come up with a common front.
"At the moment, they are playing right into the hands of the Plantagenet Alliance – it's classic divide and conquer tactics."
The council and university agree the place of reinterment should be Leicester Cathedral.
The university, city council and Leicester Cathedral are meeting tomorrow about what to do next. A spokeswoman for the cathedral said: "It was obviously a disappointing outcome on Tuesday as we didn't discuss the things we were supposed to discuss.
"But now we need a positive way forward."
One of the topics of conversation tomorrow will be the possibility of a public consultation into the final resting place of Richard III.
The Plantagenet Alliance has requested that the country is consulted about where the remains should be buried.
The court was told on Tuesday the city council would be willing to back the idea of a consultation.
However, Sir Peter said yesterday : "The difficulty of a consultation is getting everyone to agree to the terms.
"I doubt very much we will agree with the Plantagenet Alliance about how to carry it out.
"That said, I think the most important thing will be to get an early resolution, whether that is a consultation which can be agreed upon or the conclusion of the judicial review."
The cathedral and university would not say whether they believed a consultation would be a good idea.
Have they all lost their marbles?
No-one "owns" the bones. This isn't about ownership. It is about whether the original decision to re-inter Richard III in Leicester was done in a lawful way.
What on earth are the PA on about when they say the country should be consulted? That can only happen with a national referendum and there might be quite a few other far more important issues requiring that treatment, than the reburial of Richard III.
What is this public consultation thing about as well? What a load of nonsense - and all because 15 lunatics want the former King buried in York Minster, even though the cathedral has stated that he should be buried in Leicester.