Attorney General will not intervene in Plymouth Brethren charity tribunal case

Dominic Grieve decides not to join as a party to the appeal against the Charity Commission's refusal of charitable status to the religious group

Dominic Grieve
Dominic Grieve

The Attorney General has decided not to intervene in the charity tribunal case between the Charity Commission and the Preston Down Trust.

The trust, a congregation of the Plymouth Brethren, is appealing against a decision by the commission not to grant it charitable status. The tribunal hearing is expected in March 2013.

Matthew Offord, Conservative MP for Hendon, recently wrote to Dominic Grieve, the Attorney General, to ask him what representations he had received on the charitable status of the Brethren and what response he had given.

Grieve said in a written parliamentary answer yesterday that he had received 28 letters on the matter from MPs and four from members of the public, but had decided against getting involved in the case.

"I have considered joining as a party to the ongoing appeal and have decided that, at this stage, it is not necessary for me to do so," he wrote in his response to the MP, adding that he was keeping his position "under review".

The commission is believed to have consulted Grieve when it initially rejected the trust’s application for charitable status and he also decided not to get involved at that stage.

Stephanie Biden, a senior associate at the solicitors Bates Wells and Braithwaite, said Grieve’s response to the MP showed he was maintaining his original position.

"The commission takes the view that the appeal will hinge on the facts relating to this specific organisation," she said. "If the Attorney General was involved, the appeal might end up taking a more wide-ranging look at the principles of religion and public benefit, so this could be the reason he is not joining as a party."

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