Freedom of Information

Article Index

Freedom of Information Publication Scheme

1 The Inner Temple and the Freedom of Information Act 2000

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 covers only that information produced by the Sub-Treasurer of the Inner Temple, and his staff, in his capacity as a local authority. It does not extend to information generated by the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple as a private body.

2 The Inner Temple as a local authority
2.1 Historical background

The Sub-Treasurer of the Inner Temple and the Under-Treasurer of the Middle Temple are designated as local authorities with a status equivalent to the councils of the Inner London Boroughs. Although within the boundaries of the City of London, the Inner and Middle Temple are not subject to the jurisdiction of the Mayor and Corporation of London. They claim this exemption as successors of the Knights Templar, who constructed the Temple Church and surrounding buildings on the site in the twelfth century. By Papal Bull, the Knights Templar were rendered exempt from all civic and ecclesiastical jurisdiction and were answerable only to the Pope. This exemption was also claimed by the Knights Hospitaller, who were granted the Temple Church and surrounding site not long after the abolition of the Knights Templar. On the dissolution of the religious orders under Henry VIII, the Temple reverted to the Crown and continued to be exempt from the jurisdiction of the Mayor and Corporation of London.

The two societies of lawyers who had come to occupy the Temple in the fourteenth century, the Honourable Societies of the Inner Temple and the Middle Temple, continued as tenants of the Crown until 13 August 1608 when letters patent of James I conveyed the lands and buildings of the Temple to the two Inns in free and common socage. These letters patent confirmed the Societies' status as liberties.

2.2 Rating powers

Under Victorian legislation (20 Victoria c.19), the Inner and Middle Temple were constituted civil 'parishes' for certain purposes, including poor relief, and were not to form part of any Poor Law Union or District. The Sub-Treasurer of the Inner Temple and Under-Treasurer of Middle Temple were to act as Overseers of the Poor, but there were no poor rates levied - only a contribution to the common poor law fund made by the Benchers of both Inns. Indeed, no rates were levied by any outside authority on individual tenants of the Inns. The Masters of the Bench acted as rating authorities, paying the amount due to the Corporation of London (e.g. police rate), London County Council, water authorities and other such bodies for contracted services and claiming back contributions from tenants as they saw fit. However, the Inns' rate-raising powers were undermined by the Local Government Finance Act (1988). Although continuing to stress their status as liberties, they agreed that the City Corporation should be the charging authority for the community charge and that the Inns should levy the agreed amounts on tenants.

2.3 Policing

Until the middle of the nineteenth century, the Inns undertook their own policing and the City police were excluded from the Inns' precincts, although the Inns did agree to contribute to the City police rate under the City Police Act of 1839. In 1857 the City police were allowed into the Temple and continue to police the precincts to this day in liaison with the Inns' security staff.

2.4 Local authority functions

Under the Temples Order of 1971 the Inner and Middle Temples were defined as local authorities with the same powers and responsibilities as the Inner London boroughs under the London Government Act 1963, except in relation to housing.

For most purposes the Inner Temple is not subject to the jurisdiction of the Common Council of the Corporation of London. However, there are exceptions relating to town planning (including local development plans) and listed historical buildings.