Home Information Cases R v The Charity Commissioners for England & Wales, ex parte Lynda Lucille Baldwin (2000)

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R v The Charity Commissioners for England & Wales, ex parte Lynda Lucille Baldwin (2000)

Summary

Although the trustees of an almshouse scheme had not invited representations from the applicant before setting aside her appointment as an almsperson, they had done just enough properly to inform themselves before making that decision. A decision of the Charity Commissioners in the exercise of their supervisory role was not amenable to judicial review.

Facts

Application for judicial review of a decision of the respondent Commissioners that the decision of the trustees of an almshouse scheme to set aside the applicant's appointment as an almsperson was regular and valid. Under the terms of the Scheme the appointment of the applicant ('B') was liable to be set aside, and hence she would lose her home, in the event of "serious misconduct" or "serious breach" of her obligations as a resident. Following three incidents in which B's behaviour was said to have caused nuisance and annoyance to her neighbours, the trustees resolved to set aside B's appointment. They did so after making inquiries into the allegations in respect of B's behaviour, but without inviting B to make any representations in relation to those allegations. Pursuant to the terms of the Scheme B invited the Commissioners to determine the validity of the trustees' decision. The Commissioners decided that although there may have been a deficiency in procedure in failing to invite representations from B, that deficiency did not invalidate the trustees' decision. By the present challenge B contended that the Commissioners should have held that the decision of the trustees was: (a) unfair, by reason of the failure to invite her to make representations; and (b) erroneous, in that the behaviour complained of did not on any view amount to misconduct or a breach of obligation which could properly be described as "serious".

Held

(1) Although the public law concept of natural justice did not apply strictu sensu to the trustees as a charitable institution, nevertheless they were under a duty to act fairly. Scott v National Trust (1998) 2 All ER 707 considered. (2) Although the court was troubled by the trustees' failure to invite B's comments on the allegations that had been made against her, it was satisfied that by their inquiries the trustees had done "just enough" properly to inform themselves before making their decision. It followed that there was no need to consider whether the approach of the Commissioners to that decision had given rise to a reviewable error. (3) The issue as to what was "serious" was a matter of fact for the trustees to determine within the bounds of reasonableness. There was no basis for challenging the trustees' decision on that point. (4) If it had been necessary to do so, the court would have upheld the Commissioners' submission that under the scheme their function was visitatorial, and hence not amenable to judicial review. R v Full University Visitor, ex parte Page (1993) AC 682 considered.

Application dismissed.

Queen's Bench Division
Jack Beatson QC
Judgment date
7 July 2000
References

​LTL 11/9/2000

Practice areas

trusts-and-settlements,Trusts & Settlements