Case No. 12/14

 

IN THE CHARITY TRIBUNAL FOR NORTHERN IRELAND

 

THE CHARITIES ACTS (NORTHERN IRELAND) 2008-2013

 

THE CHARITY TRIBUNAL RULES (NORTHERN IRELAND) 2010

 

 

BETWEEN:

 

ROBERT CRAWFORD

                                                                                                                             Appellant

 

-and-

 

THE CHARITY COMMISSION FOR NORTHERN IRELAND

                                                                                             

                                                                                                                                Respondent

_____________________________________________________________________

DECISION ON AN APPLICATION OF THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL FOR NORTHERN IRELAND FOR PERMISSION TO APPEAL TO THE HIGH COURT OF JUDICATURE IN NORTHERN IRELAND

_______________________________________________________________________

 

Background

 

1.      The Appellant's appeals to the Tribunal (14 in number) were heard over a three day period on 30 May 2015, 1 June 2015 and 12 June 2015. All of the appeals were dismissed in a reserved decision containing full reasons issued on 19 October 2015. The Appellant did not seek, and has not sought, leave to appeal to the High Court.

 

  1. Leave to appeal to the High Court against the decision of the Tribunal dismissing only the appeal of the Appellant against his removal as a trustee is sought by the Attorney-General for Northern Ireland ('the Attorney') in an application received on 13 November 2015, pursuant to section14(1) of the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2008 ('the Act') and Rule 35(1) of the Charity Tribunal Rules (Northern Ireland) 2010 ('the Rules'). The Attorney, in his application, as pleaded, does not seek leave to appeal against the other 13 appeals brought by the Appellant and dismissed by the Tribunal.

 

  1. The Attorney was not a party to the substantive proceedings before the Tribunal: he took no part in the substantive hearing. Neither the Appellant, nor the Respondent, made any application, at any stage, that the papers should be referred to the Attorney pursuant to section 15 of the Act. The Tribunal saw no reason to make such referral of its own volition. The Attorney did, of his own volition, initially intervene in the appeal proceedings but did not, ultimately, proceed with that intervention. Nevertheless, the Attorney is entitled to seek leave to appeal a decision made by the Tribunal.

 

 Grounds

 

     4.  It is asserted by the Attorney that the Tribunal erred in law by:

 

(a) concluding that the removal of the Appellant as a trustee of the charity, the Disabled Police Officers Association of Northern Ireland (a corporate body) ('the      Charity') was necessary or desirable for the purpose of protecting the property of the Charity or securing a proper application for the purposes of the Charity of that property or of property coming to the Charity, there being no satisfactory basis for that conclusion offered;

 

(b) allegedly relying on a cumulative impression of misconduct and mismanagement by the Appellant rather than giving weight only to misconduct or mismanagement that had been established to the requisite standard;

 

(c) allegedly drawing conclusions against the Appellant on the basis of withdrawals of appeals by other trustees of the Charity;

 

(d) allegedly holding the Appellant to a higher standard than that of a trustee by reason of his role on the Audit Committee of the Charity and, in particular, imposing a duty on him to ensure that there was no mismanagement or misconduct in the affairs of the Charity;

 

(e) concluding that the removal of the Appellant as a trustee of the Charity was a proportionate exercise of the statutory power to remove a trustee.

 

Decision

 

    5.  I have considered the grounds advanced for leave to appeal carefully. However, I am not satisfied that they raise arguable errors of law as alleged.

 

    6.   The grounds advanced appear to consist, in large measure, of a disagreement with the Tribunal's findings of fact on the evidence before it, on the balance of probabilities, from which it concluded that the removal of the Appellant as a trustee of the Charity was appropriate and proportionate: it is not arguable that the Tribunal's findings, on the evidence before it, were such as to constitute an error of law.

 

    7.   The Tribunal did not draw conclusions against the Appellant on the basis of withdrawals of appeals by other Appellants, both trustees and non-trustees; rather, the decision of the Tribunal quite clearly noted that the facts leading to the Orders made by the Respondent against those other Appellants, all of whom either abandoned or withdrew their appeals, and the Orders made against them were thus unchallenged, were very substantially the same facts that led to the Orders made against the instant Appellant. Nevertheless, the decision of the Tribunal clearly shows that the grounds for removing the Appellant were established on their own merits. Somewhat ironically, the Appellant presented his appeals, in large measure, on the basis of challenging the basis of the Orders made against the other Appellants.

 

    8.   While the Tribunal did refer in its decision to the significance of the Appellant holding the role as chairman of the Audit Committee of the Charity, it is not correct to allege that the Tribunal held the Appellant to a higher standard than that of any trustee of a charity.

 

Right to seek leave to appeal from the High Court

 

     9. Consequent on this refusal to grant leave to appeal to the High Court against the decision of the Tribunal issued on 19 October 2015, the Attorney has a right to seek leave to appeal direct from the High Court pursuant to Rule 36(4) of the Rules.

 

 

 

Dated: 20 November 2015

 

 

 

Damien McMahon,

President