In a test case with wide-reaching implications for private
sector providers, three appeal court judges have rejected claims
that the disability charity Leonard Cheshire Foundation should be
made subject to human rights legislation because it performed
“public functions”, writes Lauren
Lord Chief Justice Lord Woolf, sitting with Lord Justice Dyson
and Lord Justice Laws, ruled that residents furious over plans to
close the first-established Leonard Cheshire home in its current
form had “no public law rights”.
They said the charity, as a private body, was not subject to the
terms of the European Convention on Human Rights, and its decisions
could not be reviewed by the courts.
Last April, residents of Le Court home near Petersfield in
Hampshire mounted a judicial review challenge against the
charity’s plans to replace the 50-bed home for disabled
people with a 16-bed nursing home, claiming that the
“redevelopment” would be an infringement of their right to respect
for private and family life.
In June, Justice Stanley Burton said he had no power to consider
their challenge under current law as judicial review has
historically been confined to decisions of public bodies, and has
not been held to apply to public sector providers.
However, he admitted that the case raised issues of “general
public importance” suitable for consideration by the House of Lords
and, in October, the residents were granted permission to take
their “homes for lives” case to the court of appeal.
Residents’ counsel Richard Gordon QC told the court of
appeal that, as most of the residents at Le Court were funded by
local authorities, the charity was performing hybrid public/private
functions that made its decisions susceptible to judicial review.
He called for a widening of the courts’ power to review and
overturn decisions of private bodies to whom public functions were
But last week, that appeal was dismissed by Lords Woolf, Dyson,
Laws: “In our judgement, the role that the Leonard Cheshire
Foundation was performing manifestly did not involve the
performance of public functions. The fact that the Leonard Cheshire
Foundation is a large and flourishing organisation does not change
the nature of its activities from private to public.”