In a test case with far-reaching implications for private sector
providers, a high court judge ruled last week that disability
charity Leonard Cheshire was not “a public body” within the meaning
of the Human Rights Act 1998.
Residents are challenging the charity’s decision to “redevelop”
its first home, Le Court near Petersfield, Hampshire, claiming it
would be an infringement of their rights under article eight of the
European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees respect for
private and family life.
But Justice Stanley Burton said he had no power to consider
their judicial review challenge under current law. Judicial reviews
have historically been confined to decisions of public bodies.
However, he said, the case raised issues of “general public
importance” suitable for consideration by the House of Lords and
granted a rare “leap-frog” order bypassing the court of appeal.
Leonard Cheshire trustees decided in September last year to
replace its largest home with a 16-bed nursing home for “highly
dependent residents”. It currently has 50 residents, of whom 33 are
nursing and 17 are residential. Most have places funded by local
The residents will now take their case to the House of Lords.
Their solicitor, Paul Conrathe, described the issue of whether
private bodies who have taken over public sector functions are
susceptible to review by the courts as “absolutely vital”.