You might have read in the press recently that the Charity Commission has commenced a consultation about the continued registration as charities of complementary and alternative health charities. This raises a question as to whether their charitable status can be removed? It was in response to this question that I wrote my book “The Law of Charitable Status: Maintenance and Removal”. My book explains why the Charity Commission has very limited powers in this respect. Representatives of the Charity Commission have confirmed that they agree with the findings in my book and the book has been cited in Parliamentary debates on the topic.

Crucially the Charity Commission is not a law making body. It has a duty to follow the law. This means when registering and removing charities from the register of charities it must follow the law in the form of legislation and court decisions. Even in rare circumstances where the court decides that a charity is no longer charitable because the purpose has become dated, the court and the Charity Commission have a duty to apply the property of the former charity for charitable purposes. Therefore even if the charity ceases to be charitable its property will continue to be applied for charitable purposes. Again the court has made it clear that this should rarely be the case.

The Charity Commission decided to carry out this consultation due to pressure from the Good Thinking Society which threatened it with judicial review if it did not remove some alternative medicine charities from the register on the basis that they did not provide public benefit. Public benefit is part of the law of charitable status and although the Charity Commission must provide guidance on public benefit it is bound by the law as decided by decisions of the court. Therefore if the Charity Commission does decide to remove charities from the register it must tread carefully as it will run the risk of an appeal to the Charity tribunal.

Share your views with the author of The Law of Charitable Status: Maintenance and Removal”:

Robert Meakin
Partner
Charity & Social Enterprise Team
Stone King
Telephone: +44 (0)1223 612077
Email: RobertMeakin@stoneking.co.uk

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