Details of the Act
- the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2022 (the 2022 Act) will amend the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2008 Act (the 2008 Act), with retrospective effect, to render previous decisions taken by staff, where they were found to have had no lawful authority to do so, lawful. This covers all registration decisions, consents and schemes etc
- the 2022 Act provides protections so that the findings of a Court or Tribunal will not be altered by the amendment, nor will ongoing proceedings be picked up by the amendment where delegation is an issue before the Court or Tribunal
- certain decisions stipulated within the 2022 Act and which in the main were taken during the course of a statutory inquiry, such as the suspension or removal of trustees will remain unlawful and therefore be allowed to proceed to their natural conclusion, by way of the courts if necessary
- another layer of protection is provided by refreshed appeal rights as stipulated in Schedule 3 of the 2008 Act, applicable from the date of Royal Assent for decisions made lawful. The timeframe for such appeals, if there are any, is extended from 42 to 91 days
- where a charity has sought and been given a subsequent decision following the McBride Judgment, nothing in the Bill alters the operation of that subsequent decision
- the rendering of registration decisions lawful by the 2022 Act does not impose a duty on those charities to provide Annual Reports and Accounts for past periods in accordance with Part 8 of the Act. They will instead be required to report on the first full financial year from 1 April 2022. Those 66% of charities who provided their Annual Report and Accounts voluntarily can continue as before. Those that did not submit their Annual Report and Accounts would be encouraged to do so although there is no legal requirement for them to do so
- the 2022 Act provides a power for delegation to Commission staff going forward provided it is set out in a Scheme of Delegation to be approved by the Minister for Communities. Such a Scheme will be subject to public consultation
- the 2022 Act stipulates that certain powers will never be delegated to staff
- the 2022 Act provides a power to introduce a registration threshold via subordinate legislation at some future point if it is deemed appropriate.
It is the Commission’s intention to write to registered charities so it is important that Trustees check the register to ensure that the information held by the Commission is up to date.