Thousands of charity registrations voided after registration blunder

Around 6,000 charities have had their registration voided after a court ruled they were unlawfully processed by the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland.

The Northern Ireland Court of Appeal ruled that registration decisions must be made by the regulator’s board of commissioners, or a committee that includes Commissioners.

However, prior to May 2019 many decisions were made by commission staff, who were following manuals approved by Commissioners.

The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland has confirmed “if your charity was registered prior to May 2019, it is likely that the decision was made by a member of staff and not a panel of Commissioners and is therefore considered to be void at this time”.

It adds that charities affected by the court’s ruling can continue to operate as normal and their status in law as a charity is not affected.

In addition, the Commission is to contact charity funders to clarify the situation to ensure charities continue to be funded.

But the Commission says it is “not feasible” to review all 6,000 charities that are affected and retrospectively register them. Instead the regulator is working with the Northern Ireland government to “seek a permanent resolution to the issue as soon as possible”.

The Commission stresses that its work overseeing the charity sector will continue and its procedures have been updated to take into account the court’s judgement.

A statement from Northern Ireland’s Department for Communities said: “The Department accepts the Court of Appeal judgment. The determination of the Court raises complex issues in respect to charity regulation in Northern Ireland from 2013 when the Charity Commission began registration and going forward.

“The Department is assured that the Charity Commission has introduced interim procedures to ensure decisions can be taken in compliance with the judgment.

It adds: “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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