Journalist ponders Supreme Court move over Mariam Appeal investigation

Lawyer for Dominic Kennedy of The Times says the Charity Commission's refusal to publish the information is unnecessarily restrictive now the investigation is over

Dominic Kennedy
Dominic Kennedy

The Charity Commission’s refusal to publish details of its investigation into the Mariam Appeal, which was set up by the former MP George Galloway, might be contested in the Supreme Court.

The commission published a report about the appeal in 2007 that said it had taken donations from "improper sources" connected with the Iraqi Oil for Food programme, set up while Iraq was subject to UN sanctions during the regime of Saddam Hussein. Galloway said at the time that the report was "sloppy, misleading and partial".

Dominic Kennedy, a journalist at The Times newspaper, used the Freedom of Information Act that year to ask the regulator to publish details of its three inquiries into the Mariam Appeal. The commission declined to do so on the grounds that a legal exemption applied to information obtained during an inquiry. Kennedy has since been involved in a legal battle to overturn that decision.

Last week, the Court of Appeal upheld the Charity Commission’s decision not to publish the documents, but gave Kennedy permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Rupert Earle, a partner at the law firm Bates Wells & Braithwaite, which is representing Kennedy, said it was not yet clear whether the appeal would go ahead. He said, however, that the case raised an important principle.

"The exemption for publishing information obtained during an inquiry should apply while the inquiry is open, but it is unnecessarily restrictive for it to continue after that," he said. "It means that some information does not become public for 30 years, when it passes into the National Archives."

In a statement, the Charity Commission said: "The commission's position was upheld in earlier stages of this case by the Information Commissioner, the Information Rights Tribunal and the High Court. We note that the judgment says the court would give Mr Kennedy permission to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. We are awaiting formal confirmation as to whether he will be making an appeal."

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