Judicial review applicant might have to pay more than £2,000 costs to Charity Commission

Lennox Ryan, who appealed to the Administrative Court over an earlier commission decision, says the regulator has told him it intends to claim the costs it has been awarded

An appellant who lost the right to a judicial review at the Administrative Court could have to pay costs of more than £2,000 to the Charity Commission.

Lennox Ryan appealed to the Administrative Court after the charity tribunal ruled that it did not have the jurisdiction to consider his appeal against an earlier Charity Commission decision.

The case centres on a charity called Kidd Legacy Being a Part of Central Park, Dartford, whose sole trustee was Dartford Borough Council, which sold a small section of the charitable land it owns to a property developer in 2005.

The commission ruled that the council had breached charity law, but accepted that it had acted in good faith and, in 2008, approved its proposal to replace the sold land with other land of lower value and provide £270,000 towards the maintenance and improvement of the charity land.

Local residents Derek Maidment and Ryan appealed to the charity tribunal against the commission's decision.

Two of their four objections were accepted by the tribunal after a hearing in 2009. The tribunal told the council that it had to make a number of changes, including appointing independent trustees and reinstating the charity’s original objects, which had been modified by the commission’s scheme.

The tribunal also required the trustees to put in place a policy for managing conflicts of interest, which was agreed by the commission in 2010.

In 2012, Ryan contacted the Charity Commission with concerns that the trustees had not complied with the terms of a conflict of interest policy and that a planning decision had been taken in breach of that policy.

He said that when an application was put forward for a new development on the land adjoining the charity’s land in 2011, the councillors, acting as trustees, discussed and welcomed the application during a committee meeting, which he said should not have been allowed.

The commission told Ryan in May 2012 that it had looked into his concerns but had found no regulatory issues in the council's actions. On 5 July that year the commission turned down a subsequent request for an internal review of the decision.

Ryan then appealed to the charity tribunal, asking for it to review the commission’s decision not to carry out an internal decision review.

As part of his appeal, Ryan asked the tribunal to intervene and take action itself to enforce the conflict of interest policy introduced as part of its 2009 scheme, if it found that it had been breached by the charity.

The tribunal rejected the request in August 2012. As part of the rejection, tribunal judge Alison McKenna said that a "lacuna" – a hole in the tribunal’s jurisdiction – meant it could not intervene and enforce its own ruling.

After the rejection, Ryan appealed to the Administrative Court for permission to apply for a judicial review of the commission’s decisions to not conduct an internal review and not to intervene. This appeal was refused on 8 May. Ryan then asked for his application for permission to apply for judicial review to be reconsidered and he was granted an oral hearing.

The oral hearing took place this month and Ryan’s request for a review was rejected. Ryan said the judge overseeing the hearing ruled that his application for a judicial review was "unarguable and hopeless".

He said the judge had ruled that his claim was substantially out of time and the commission and Dartford Borough Council had acted lawfully throughout.

Ryan said that the commission was awarded £2,394 in costs after his request for a review was refused.

He said he received a "warning letter" from the regulator that stated that it intended to claim costs.

"It’s not money I can afford and it’s certainly not money I’d like to pay," said Ryan.

Asked whether the commission would seek costs from Ryan, a spokeswoman said she was unable to comment.

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