Evans – Supreme Court rules that AG’s veto was unlawful

The Supreme Court has today handed down a judgment which has very significant ramifications for the operation of the veto regime by the Government in connection with FOIA and EIR cases: R(Evans) v Attorney General. It marks a great victory for the Guardian in its 10 year struggle to gain access to correspondence written by HRH Prince Charles to various government departments. But more than this, it marks an important milestone in the development of FOI jurisprudence, as our highest court makes clear that, when it comes to the application of FOIA, Government cannot trump the decisions of the courts merely because it takes a different view of the facts of the case.

In short, the Supreme Court has held: (a) by a 5:2 majority that the veto issued under FOIA by the AG in respect of the Upper Tribunal’s order that the correspondence should be disclosed was unlawful and (b) by a 6:1 majority that provisions in the EIR which permit the Government to issue a veto in cases falling within the scope of the environmental information access regime were invalid, as they are incompatible with the EU Directive on public access to environmental information (2003/4/EC). The Supreme Court’s Press Summary, which contains a useful summary of the judgment, can be found here.

Posts containing careful analysis of the judgment will undoubtedly follow on Panopticon. 11KBW’s Karen Steyn QC appeared for the Attorney General. Timothy Pitt-Payne QC appeared for the ICO.

Anya Proops