Case Ref Nos:[12-20/14] IN THE CHARITY TRIBUNAL FOR NORTHERN IRELAND

IN THE MATTER OF APPEALS  AGAINST AND APPLICATIONS  FOR A REVIEW OF DECISIONS OF THE CHARITY COMMISSION FOR NORTHERN IRELAND

 

 

 

BETWEEN:

 

ROBERT CRAWFORD;ELAINE HAMPTON;WILLIAM ALLEN;GORDON KNOWLES;

and STEPHEN McALISTER

 

 

 

APPELLANTS/APPLICANTS

 

-AND·

 

THE CHARITY COMMISSION FOR NORTHERN IRELAND

 

RESPONDENT

 

 

 

DIRECTIONS PURSUANT TO RULE 3(1) OF THE CHARITY TRIBUNAL RULES (NORTHERN IRELAND)  2010

 

 

 

1.  By direction  dated 18 December  2014, the Tribunal directed Ms Hampton and Mr Allen, in the light of the Tribunal's decision  in the case of Crawford v The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland, to confirm by noon on Wednesday 7 January 2015 whether they wish to proceed with any application to extend the time limit to make an application for a review of the Respondent's decision of 14 February 2014 to institute a statutory inquiry into the OPOANI.

 

2.  The Appellants did not comply with the Tribunal's direction by Wednesday 7 January

2015. Instead, by application filed on 18 January 2015, the Solicitors for Mr Allen and Ms  Hampton  applied  pursuant  to Rule  3(2)(b)  of  The  Charity  Tribunal (Northern Ireland)  Rules  2010  for a  direction  under  Rule  3(1)(c)  and  Section 15(2)  of  the Charities  Act (Northern Ireland) 2008 that the papers in their appeals be sent to the Attorney General.

 

3.   The reasons for the request that the papers be sent to the Attorney General were as follows:

 

Following the decision of the Tribunal on 1£ih December 2014 it would appear that the above Applicants have little prospect of success in their applications for a review of the decision to institute the Statutory Inquiry as the Tribunal is unlikely to find that they have the requisite

standing.

 

The DPOANI Board would clearly have had standing under the Rules. The DPOANI had  initially lodged  papers seeking a review of  this decision. It is notable that:


1. Those members of the Board who were or have been suspended by the CCNI pursuant to this statutory inquiry would have voted in favour of a review of this decision had they not been suspended by the CCNI.

 

OC:JA  majority  of the  current  Board  of the  charity  together  with  an interim manager  of the charity have been appointed by the CCNI and consequently owe their position on the Board to the fact that the CCNI did institute this Inquiry.

 

Both  solicitor   and  Counsel  for  the  DPOANI  appeared   before  the Tribunal on 241h November  2014 and advised that the Charity Commission  had  raised  issues  with regards  their  fees  and  whether

they were properly instructed. The DPOANI then failed to pursue this review  apparently  following  communication  from the interim manager who had been appointed by the CCNI. Although a skeleton argument had been prepared by Counsel for the DPOANI which had been coordinated with the skeleton for the above named Applicants, this was never lodged on behalf of the DPOANI and there was no appearance on behalf  of the DPOANI  at the scheduled  hearing  of the review  on

1dh December 2014.

 

The  failure  to pursue  this  Review  has  given  the appearance  of the CCNI having, at least indirectly, the power and ability to prevent judicial scrutiny of their decision to institute a s.22 Inquiry.

 

4.   On 23 January 2015, the Tribunal directed that Respondent set out its position on this application no later than 29 January 2015. In the event, the Respondent responded on 3 February 2015 in the following terms:

 

It  is the Commission's  position  that  now that  a decision  has issued from the Tribunal  in relation  to Mr Crawford  and the applicants have chosen  not to pursue their application  by the time stated in direction dated 1£ih December  2014, that the proceedings relating to the review of the decision  under  section  22 are at an end before the Tribunal. Therefore, the Tribunal has no jurisdiction to make any direction under section 15(2) of the 2008 Act.

 

5.  The Tribunal has considered the parties respective positions. It is correct to say that Ms Hampton and Mr Allen did not comply with the Tribunal's direction that they confirm by 7 January 2015 whether they wished to proceed with their applications to extend time to apply for a review of the Respondent's decision to institute an inquiry. However, the Tribunal has not yet determined those applications. Accordingly, the Tribunal does not consider that it is  prevented from  sending the papers  to the Attorney General if it otherwise considers it appropriate to do so. The Tribunal notes the breadth of Section 15(2), as follows (emphasis added):

 

The Tribunal or, in the case of an appeal from the Tribunal, the Court may  at any  stage of  the  proceedings direct  that all the necessary papers in the proceedings be sent to the Attorney General.

 

6.  The essence of the application made by Mr Allen and Ms Hampton is that at one point in  time, the Charity would have had standing to challenge the decision to institute an inquiry; that the Charity did lodge such a challenge; that the Respondent has appointed new Board members and an interim manager; that, associated with an intervention by the interim manager, the Charity did not proceed with its intended


 

 

 

challenge to the decision to instigate an inquiry;and,as a result the Respondent has albeit indirectly prevented the Tribunal from examining the lawfulness of the decision to instigate the inquiry.

 

7.  The Tribunal is not in a position to make any findings of fact or to draw any other conclusions with respect to the substance of the allegations made in the application of Mr Allen and Ms Hampton, and the Tribunal confirms that it has not done so.

 

8.   However, the Tribunal considers that there is a question which requires further consideration. The lawfulness of the inquiry is the foundation upon which stands the Respondent's actions vis-a-vis all the Appellants. The central contention is that the Respondent has brought about a situation whereby the lawfulness of that inquiry cannot be examined by the Tribunal. That is potentially an important matter.

 

9.    Accordingly, the Tribunal accedes to the application brought by Ms Allen and Mr Hampton. Given that this question impinges upon all the appeals/applications arising from the actions of the Respondent vis-a-vis the Charity, the Tribunal directs that the papers in all of those appeals/applications be sent to the Attorney General, namely the following:

 

a.  Robert Crawford; b.  Elaine Hampton; c.  William Allen;

d.  Gordon Knowles; and

e.  Stephen McAlister f.   DPOANI

 

10. There still remain the outstanding applications by Ms Hampton and Mr Allen for a direction extending time for the bringing of a challenge to the decision to institute a statutory inquiry.

 

11.In its decisions of 18 December 2014 and 21 January 2015, the Tribunal decided that Mr Crawford did not have standing to bring an application to challenge the decision to institute an inquiry: he was not "persons who has control or management of the" Charity; nor was he the body corporate itself, within the meaning of Schedule 3 to the

2008 Act.

 

12. Since making those decisions, the Tribunal has received from the Office of the Attorney General, a letter which it sent to the Solicitors for Mr Allen and Ms Hampton, pointing out that the reference to "persons" may, pursuant to the Interpretation Act (Northern Ireland) 1954, be construed as referring to "person" singular.

 

13. The Tribunal directs Mr Allen and Ms Hampton to confirm by close of business on Wednesday 25 February 2015 whether they wish (i)  to contend that they have standing to bring an application for a review of the decision to institute an inquiry and (ii) to apply to extend the time limit for bringing such an application.

 

14. If Mr Allen or Ms Hampton or any of them wishes to contend that they have standing to bring an application for a review of the decision to institute an inquiry and to apply to extend the time limit for bringing such an application, then those matters will be dealt with at a hearing on Wednesday 4 March 2015.

 

15. If neither Mr Allen nor Ms Hampton wishes to contend that they have standing to bring an application for a review of the decision to institute an inquiry or to apply to


extend the time limit for bringing such an application, then the following directions shall apply:

 

a.  Given the commonality of issues in the appeals of Mr Crawford, Mr Allen, Ms Hampton, Mr Knowles and Mr McAlister, all the appeals will be heard together, pursuant to Rule 12. Mr Crawford's application that his appeal be heard separately from the other appellants is refused.

 

b.  All the Appellants' substantive appeals shall be heard on Thursday 26 and Friday 27 March 2015 at the Lands Tribunal Court, Royal Courts of Justice, Belfast;

 

c.  Witness statements on behalf of  the Respondent shall be served on  the

Appellants on or before 4 March 2015;

 

d.  Witness statements on  behalf  of  the  Appellants shall be  served on  the

Respondent on or before 18 March 2015;

 

e.  An agreed statement of the factual matters to be decided and the legal issues in the proceedings shall be served on or before 23 March 2015.

 

 

Mr A Colmer

Chairman of the Northern Ireland Charity Tribunal

Dated this 18 day of February 2015