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Charity tribunal clarifies rules

15 June 2010

The charity tribunal can only consider appeals against the Charity Commission where the regulator has issued a formal decision, the tribunal has ruled.

Professor Leon Poller, a former trustee of the Manchester and District Home for Lost Dogs, had written to the commission expressing concern about the charity’s governance and the conduct of some of its trustees.

In a determination issued in March, the regulator declined to launch a formal investigation and Professor Poller appealed to the tribunal.

Alison McKenna, principal judge at the tribunal, struck out his appeal, saying the determination did not constitute a decision within the meaning of the Charities Act 1993 that would be open to a review by the tribunal.

Although the commission “has attempted to resolve the appellant’s complaints about the charity, it has not exercised any relevant statutory powers in doing so”, she said.

Judge McKenna concluded: “In the circumstances, the tribunal does not have jurisdiction to determine the appellant’s application in this matter and the application should therefore be struck out.”

She also took the opportunity to clarify the relevant procedure to be followed in such cases. The rules allowed an appellant to make representations before a decision was made.

Accordingly, she had notified Professor Poller of her draft decision proposing to strike out the case. She noted Professor Poller was “understandably unhappy” about it.

He said there needed to be “a way whereby the Charities Acts 1993 and 2006 are implemented to provide adequate opportunity for genuine appeals against Charity Commission’s decisions to be considered by the Tribunals Judiciary other than on the narrow grounds listed in the official documentation”.

At present, the judge said, the correct approach for an applicant in this situation was to refer the matter to the Independent Complaints Reviewer, as provided under the memorandum of understanding between the tribunal and the ICR.

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