In February 2020 the Court of Appeal dismissed the Appeal by the Charity Commission against Madam Justice McBride’s High Court Judgment of May 2019. The Judgment found that the Charity Commissioners were the body corporate, “the Commission”, and that they do not have implied or express power to delegate their functions to staff acting alone. This meant that decisions previously taken by the staff of the Commission were unlawful.
The Minister for Communities took legal advice on the complex issues which the judgments raised and secured agreement from Executive colleagues to bring forward a Bill to amend the Charities Act (NI) 2008. The Charities Bill 2021, which became the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2022 (the 2022 Act), passed its final stage on Tuesday 8 February 2022 and received Royal Assent on 30 March 2022. The 2022 Act makes lawful the vast majority of decisions made by Commission staff prior to May 2019. In addition, the 2022 Act allows that the Department may make a Scheme of Delegation which, if made, would permit some functions of the Commission to be delegated to staff. In making a Scheme of Delegation the legislation stipulates that the first Scheme should be subject to public consultation.
In parallel to the proposal for legislation change, the Minister for Communities commissioned an Independent Review of Charity Regulation, to include the performance of the current Regulator. The Independent Panel’s Report was published on 20 January 2022.