Jehovah's Witness charity to appeal to Supreme Court over Charity Commission inquiry

The judges ruled yesterday that the Watch Tower and Bible Tract Society of Great Britain was not entitled to apply for a judicial review into the scope of a statutory inquiry

Supreme Court
Supreme Court

The Watch Tower and Bible Tract Society of Great Britain has said it plans to appeal to the Supreme Court after the Court of Appeal ruled it was not entitled to apply for a judicial review into the scope of a Charity Commission statutory inquiry.

The Court of Appeal handed down a judgment yesterday giving WTBTSB, the umbrella charity for Jehovah’s Witnesses, permission to appeal to the High Court against the scope of a production order made by the commission as part of a statutory inquiry opened in May 2014.

But it rejected WTBTSB’s appeal to be allowed to seek judicial review of the scope of the inquiry itself.

After the inquiry into WTBTSB’s safeguarding of children was launched, the charity sought a judicial review of the decision to open the inquiry and of the production order demanding documents from the charity, saying both were too broad in scope.

This application was rejected on 12 December 2014 because the judge said the case should be taken to the charity tribunal, and an appeal to the tribunal made 10 days later was rejected in March 2015 because it had been made outside the 42-day time limit.

But WTBTSB argued before a Court of Appeal hearing on 10 February that it should be allowed to have its appeal heard as part of a judicial review, since the first-tier tribunal only had the power to quash enquiries, not to limit the scope.

A spokesman for WTBSB said yesterday: ""Naturally the trustees are disappointed that the court held that they were not entitled to challenge the scope of the commission’s inquiry by way of judicial review. The trustees have therefore asked the Court of Appeal for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court in order to resolve an important legal principle.

On the successful element of WTBTSB’s case, he said: "The trustees of Watch Tower Society of Great Britain are very pleased that the Court of Appeal agreed with their key submission. The First Tier Tribunal lacked jurisdiction to determine Watch Tower’s complaint that the Charity Commission’s production order was unlawful."

The commission declined to comment on WTBTSB’s plan to appeal to the Supreme Court.

In its response to the ruling yesterday, the commission said it planned to press ahead with its inquiry, but acknowledged that this would be subject to any appeals by the charity. 

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