“Sufficient interest” in faculty petitions – II

The earlier post “Sufficient interest” in faculty petitions concerns a petition for a confirmatory faculty for the introduction of an unauthorized ledger stone, and explores some features of “sufficient interest” in faculty petitions, Re St Lawrence Toot Baldon [2023] ECC Oxf 10. This judgment was shortly followed by the circulation of Re St. Nicholas Leicester [2023] ECC Lei 3 which considered other aspects of “sufficient interest” [*] and is discussed below.


Re St. Nicholas Leicester [2023] ECC Lei 3 is the third (of four) considerations of an on-going  faculty application for the introduction of a new altar frontal in the form of a Progress Pride image with a white cross applied to it. Two potential designs have been provided and the petitioners are seeking to have permission for the frontal to be displayed during Sunday worship and on Saturdays when the church is open to the public, Re St. Nicholas Leicester [2023] ECC Lei 1 (28 January 2023) [5].

The Registry received sixteen letters or emails of support for the Petition and nine people objected [2]. None of the persons who submitted objections to the petition came within any of sub-paragraphs (a) to (g) of rule 10.1 of the FJR 2015. It therefore fell to the Deputy Chancellor to determine whether any of them had a sufficient interest in the subject matter of the petition to enable them to formally object under rule 10.2 of the Faculty Jurisdiction Rules 2015.

Initially, the Deputy Chancellor determined that three of the nine objectors (details of whom are summarized in [10]) had a sufficient interest to be treated as objectors for the purposes of rule 10.2, Mr Sam Margrave, Revd Brett Murphy and Revd Dr Ian Paul.  However, subsequent correspondence to the court resulted in a reconsideration of the standing of one of the three, Mr Sam Margrave, following which he was given a short period (until 10 February 2023) in which to provide further information before making a decision, Re St. Nicholas Leicester [2023] ECC Lei 2 (2 February 2023).

On receipt of this additional information, the Acting Chancellor[**] set aside the original order in so far as the objector was not deemed to have a “sufficient interest” in the petition, Re St. Nicholas Leicester [2023] ECC Lei 3  (24 April 2023). The Petitioners were given until 16 May 2023 to file any reply that they wish to those objections.


In the subsequent judgment Re St. Nicholas Leicester [2024] ECC Lei 2, the Diocesan Chancellor Gyane Ch.[***] set aside the earlier decision to treat Revd Brett Murphy as having sufficient interest in the Petition since: he was no longer a priest within the Leicester Diocese or the Church of England, and therefore not affected by the application; he failed to respond to the Petitioners’ application [45] to [51].

With regard to Dr Ian Paul, she obtained confirmation from Mr William Nye, Secretary General of the Archbishops’ Council that he was not “acting as a representative of the Archbishop’s Council or with their knowledge”; and was “not persuaded to set aside or vary the Deputy Chancellor’s order on [his] standing”. She said [emphasis added]:

“[44]. It is from the original decision that the reason Dr Paul was considered to have a sufficient interest was twofold: Firstly, because of his membership on the Archbishop’s Council and General Synod and secondly, because there is a current debate within the church on the doctrine of marriage. The points he raised on liturgy and doctrine are of general public interest. It was on this dual basis, Dr Paul was able to demonstrate some particular interest in the Petition”.

“Sufficient interest”

The background to the earlier considerations is reviewed in [1] to [7] of the latest judgment.  At [8], Counsel to the Petitioners agreed with the Deputy Chancellor that “the only test of ‘sufficient interest’ applied by the Deputy Chancellor was whether the objector was a ‘regular attender’” at St Nicholas’. The Acting Chancellor (as he then was) considered this further in the light of submissions made to the court and determined that the objector had no meaningful connection with the church; he had never attended a service there, apart from attending a single online service streamed from the church and did not seek to suggest that he had “engaged” with courses at the church online [9].

With regard to his status as a campaigner against Pride and the use of the Pride and Progress Pride flag, the Acting Chancellor referred to his original decision in which he took the relevant law on the question of standing from Walton v Scottish Ministers [2012] UKSC 44. at [92] and [94].  Having regard to the principles enunciated in the Supreme Court by Lord Reed and Lord Hope, here, he concluded in his original decision on standing that he would treat two further individuals –  a parish priest within the Leicester Diocese, and a member of the General Synod and of the Archbishop’s Council of the Church of England – who did not have a direct connection with St Nicholas’ as having sufficient interest in the petition, [12].

With regard to “sufficient interest” of campaigning groups or individuals, in their written submissions the petitioners made reference to the considerations by the Administrative Court (Macur LJ, Chamberlain J) in R (McCourt) v Parole Board for England and Wales [2020] EWHC 2320 (Admin). The Acting Chancellor agreed that the fact that a person is a campaigner on an issue does not, of itself, give that person “sufficient interest” for the purpose becoming an objector to a petition:

“[14]. Views, however strongly or sincerely held, are not by themselves sufficient to give a person standing under the Faculty Jurisdiction Rules. In my judgment a putative objector who does not fall within the categories of “interested person” set out at sub-paragraphs (a) to (g) of r.10.1(1) will usually have to demonstrate a direct connection with the subject matter of the petition, although (as recognised by the Supreme Court in Walton) there may be circumstances when a wider public interest means that it is appropriate to grant a person standing notwithstanding the lack of a direct connection”.

Furthermore, there was no public interest in permitting the admission of an additional objector to supplement similar points that have been raised by others [15]. The Acting Chancellor further stated that he did not consider that the manner in which a putative objector conducted themselves in another context should carry weight in determining whether they have sufficient interest to object to a petition under the faculty jurisdiction: “The court has ample powers under the faculty jurisdiction rules to ensure that an objector conducts their objection to the petition in a proper manner” [18].

Related issues

The Acting Chancellor stated that the assertion “the introduction of the Progress Pride flag (or for that matter any other flag) into a church is forbidden by a warrant dated 9 February 1938 from the Earl Marshal” was “wholly without merit” and he considered an objection on this ground to be unarguable [16].

“The Earl Marshal’s warrant is plainly directed at the question of flying a flag from the roof or tower of a church[****]. It has no bearing on the introduction of flags or banners within the church and cannot limit the jurisdiction of the Consistory Court in that regard. In any event, the petition I am concerned with here relates to the introduction of an altar frontal (albeit largely adopting the design of commonly used flag).”

For completeness, he concluded in stating [emphasis added]:

“[20]. I should record that I have considered whether there is any need to give notice to Historic England or any other amenity society or the local planning authority. Given the subject matter of the petition, r.9.3 does not apply and I do not consider that there is any need to give notice to such bodies.

Nor, given the general public notice that has already been given and the press attention that this case has attracted is there any need for any further advertisement whether in the press or elsewhere.

I do not have any power to “sanction” the PCC…nor do I consider it proportionate to carry out an inspection of the church. However, I would remind the PCC that the new altar frontal should not be used (either at a service or at other times) pending the determination of this petition“.


[*] Note: This recent determination of Re St. Nicholas Leicester is dated 24 April 2023 whereas Re St Lawrence Toot Baldon was handed down on 31 December 2023.

[**] David Rees KC was Deputy Chancellor for the first two of these cases, and Acting Chancellor for the third.

[***] Naomi Gyane was sworn in as the Chancellor of the  Diocese of Leicester on 2 August 2023. The two references to “Mr Musgrave” in paragraph [8] appear to be typos.

[****]  The Church’s Guidance A Brief guide to Flags, Military Colours and Historic Banners comments: “The Earl Marshal’s Warrant had the approval of the Archbishops of the day but it does not make it compulsory for the flag to be flown“.

Updated 20 February 2024 to include subsequent considerations on “sufficient interest” through the judicial considerations in Re St. Nicholas Leicester [2024] ECC Lei 2. 

Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "“Sufficient interest” in faculty petitions – II" in Law & Religion UK, 25 January 2024, https://lawandreligionuk.com/2024/01/25/sufficient-interest-in-faculty-petitions-ii/


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