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Court allows Charles letters release

The UK Supreme Court says letters by Prince Charles to the government can be published, after a Guardian campaign.The UK’s highest court was asked to judge whether the Attorney General’s office acted unlawfully when it prevented their publication in 2012.The newspaper sought disclosure of the letters, written to seven government departments between 2004-5.The prince’s office at Clarence House said it was “disappointed the principle of privacy had not been upheld”.A spokeswoman also said the issue was “a matter for the government”.The BBC’s royal correspondent, Nicholas Witchell, says the government now has 30 days to prepare the publication of the 27 letters which have been cleared for publication.It has been argued that releasing the so-called “black spider memos” – a reference to the prince’s handwriting – would undermine his neutral political status.The Guardian said it had been “pressing the government” for 10 years to see the letters.According to previous Attorney General Dominic Grieve,

the letters contain the prince’s “most deeply held personal views and beliefs”.Legal battlesThe prince is heir to the throne and, as the royal family’s own website explains, it is central to the British constitution that the reigning monarch should remain politically neutral.Mr Grieve has also said that any perception the prince had disagreed with the then Labour government in 2004-5 “would be seriously damaging to his role as future monarch because if he forfeits his position of political neutrality as heir to the throne, he cannot easily recover it when he is King”.Guardian journalist Rob Evans originally applied to see letters under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004; this was initially denied by the information commissioner.But several legal decisions followed:In September 2012 the Upper Tribunal ruled that Mr Evans and the public were entitled to see “advocacy correspondence” from the prince (27 out of the 30 letters)The seven government departments concerned did not appeal but Mr Grieve, then attorney general, imposed a vetoIn March 2014, three Court of Appeal judges unanimously ruled that Mr Grieve had “no good reason” for using the ministerial vetoSeven justices at the Supreme Court in London have now heard a challenge by current Attorney General Jeremy Wright QC against the Court of Appeal ruling, but that was dismissed, paving the way for the letters to be published.

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