Solicitor homes in on sex-swap litigation

Transsexualism is set to return to the legal stage thanks to a 59-year-old who is taking issue with Leeds Health Authority over its refusal to pay for an operation to change him from a man into a woman.

The claim is still at an early stage with no writs issued. But top discrimination lawyer Madeleine Rees, a partner at the Birmingham office of Tyndallwoods, has been called in.

Rees, who has played a key role in a number of high-profile actions involving the rights of transsexuals and homosexuals, is now examining all aspects of the case of father-of-three Roy Wardle, now known as Faye, after he paid £8,000 to undergo the sex change treatment privately.

The lawyer, who was closely involved in the High Court challenges to blanket bans on gay personnel in the armed forces, said it was too early to assess the viability of a claim against Leeds Health Authority after it decided the NHS should not pay for the operation.

But Rees is looking into the question of discrimination by the authority. She said preliminary enquiries showed that psychiatrists had diagnosed Wardle as suffering from gender identity problems.

What has to be decided now is whether the health authority took into account the fact that Wardle is 59, weighs over 16 stone, is six feet tall and wears size 11 shoes when it refused to provide treatment.

If it took these criteria into consideration the courts could rule that Wardle was discriminated against.

Such a decision could expose the health authority to the compensation claim which Wardle, a former RAF intelligence officer and retired local authority planning officer, has publicly threatened to mount.