The Charity Commission has welcomed an Upper Tribunal judgment dismissing an appeal against its decision to investigate a charity over safeguarding concerns.
The regulator placed Manchester New Moston Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses (charity number 1065201 – ‘the charity’) under inquiry in May 2014 to investigate concerns about the charity’s approach to safeguarding.
The charity applied to the First-tier Tribunal (‘FTT’) for a review of the regulator’s decision on various grounds, including that the decision interfered with the congregation’s human rights and amounted to discrimination on the grounds of religion. The FTT upheld the Commission’s decision to open the inquiry in April 2015. The charity then appealed the FTT’s decisions to the Upper Tribunal (see endnotes).
These appeals have now been dismissed by the Upper Tribunal. The judge hearing the case, Mrs Justice Asplin, concluded that the FTT “was entitled to decide that there was no direct discrimination on the grounds of religion, the inquiry having been opened on the basis of unusual and distinctive factual reasons and […] that there were no other comparable cases from which to infer discrimination on the grounds of religious beliefs”.
Chris Willis Pickup, Head of Litigation at the Charity Commission says:
This judgment confirms that the Commission acted lawfully in opening the investigation, and rejects claims that the Commission’s actions discriminated against the charity because of its religion. We regret that public and charity funds have been used on this protracted litigation, but we will continue to defend robustly our legitimate role in investigating serious concerns about charities. We hope and expect that this judgment concludes the litigation on this matter and allows us, and the charity, to focus our efforts on concluding the Commission’s inquiry.
The Charity Commission has continued to progress its investigation while the tribunal action was underway and aims to conclude and publish a report of the inquiry shortly.