Charity Status in NI
NICVA’s understanding of the current situation is that charities on the register of charities are still charities in law. This means that they were formed for charitable purposes. However, because of the legal ramifications of judgment in the case of McKee & Others v Charity Commission for Northern Ireland, those charities which were registered up to and including May 2019 are no longer registered charities. This case did not challenge the substance of the decisions, it was about the level in the Commission that the decisions were made.
Charity Commission Legal Update is available here
Other implications of the court case are that decisions made by Commission staff up to May 2019 are void.
NICVA is lobbying the Department for Communities to get a resolution to this situation. However, this will require a change to the Charities Act (NI) 2008 and that should be completed as quickly as possible. Although we recognise that this will take some time.
In the meantime, NICVA recommends that Charities continue to operate as normal. We advise that charities continue to submit their required accounts and reports by the deadline as a matter of best practice. We advise charities to proceed with caution when they need to make major decisions and that they seek legal advice where necessary.
We have spoken to The Department for Communities and their spokesperson has sent the response below.
"The Department accepts the Court of Appeal Judgment. The determination of the Court raises complex issues in respect to charity regulation in NI from 2013 when the Charity Commission began registration and going forward. As such, the Minister will want to understand all of the potential impacts of the Judgment on past decisions to determine what is in the best interests of all stakeholders and to ensure that any future arrangements are fully considered as they will set the course for charity regulation in NI and must be in the wider public interest.
The Department is assured that the Charity Commission has introduced interim procedures to ensure decisions can be taken in compliance with the Judgment. The Minister will shortly determine how the Department intends to respond to the issues raised by the Judgment. In the meantime the Department can give an assurance to those charities that were unlawfully registered that they remain charities in law and need do nothing differently in the interim.”
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