R (on the application of Evans and another) v Her Majesty’s Attorney General [2015] UKSC 21

The final judgment of the financial year concerned the challenge to the Attorney General’s statutory power to intervene to prevent disclosure of material which is the subject of a request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) and/or the Environmental Information Regulations 2004. In April 2005 Mr Evans, a journalist, requested disclosure of communications passing between a number of government departments and HRH the Prince of Wales. His right to receive the information was upheld by the Upper Tribunal after a lengthy hearing. The Attorney General did not appeal against this ruling but instead within 28 days issued a certificate under s 53(2) FOIA stating that he had on reasonable grounds formed the opinion that the departments had been entitled to refuse disclosure of the letters. The Supreme Court by a majority (5 to 2) agreed with the Court of Appeal that the certificate should be quashed and the letters disclosed, either on the basis that the Attorney General was not entitled simply to take a different view from that taken by the tribunal or court, or that he had not shown the clearest possible justification for doing so in this case. Insofar as the letters contained environmental information the power to refuse disclosure was also found by six of the justices to be incompatible with EU law, which required the final decision regarding disclosure of such information to be made by a court, not the executive.