The Attorney General’s Reference

According to that distinguished jurist Sir Arthur Underhill, a trust is an equitable obligation bearing upon a person (who is called a trustee) the duty of administering property (which is called the trust property) on behalf of persons who are called beneficiaries, of whom he himself may be one and any one of whom can enforce the obligations. So far, so good. However, if the trust is a charitable trust then only the Attorney General can refer a matter to court to enforce the obligations. The Attorney General’s office will so act only when the dispute is perceived to be a matter of public interest. We maintain that the continuing outlawry of the aged and vulnerable is a most urgent and paramount matter of public interest.

This process has vestiges of the historical – and regrettably defunct – Petition of Right. However it has now been superseded by a Charity Tribunal constituted under S.2A(4)(b) of the Charities Act 1993 as amended by the Charities Act 2006. Under this new arrangement the Attorney General now refers relevant cases to the Tribunal rather than the court. The AG may refer to the Tribunal a question which involves the operation of charity law in any respect or the application of charity law to a particular state of affairs.

It could so be that the petitioning of your local MP could induce a reference of our predicament to the Tribunal. The ball, as they say, is in your court. Petition your MP right now.

Go now to The Law Commission