Law and governance: the biggest stories of 2015

Cage's High Court challenge of the Charity Commission and the progress of the charities bill were prominent

The Royal Courts of Justice
The Royal Courts of Justice

This article has been corrected. Please see below.

The Charity Commission faced a High Court judicial review over its actions in relation to funding by charities of the advocacy group Cage, which had advised the alleged former Islamic State executioner known as Jihadi John.

The commission successfully pressed two charities that had funded Cage, the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust and the Anita Roddick Foundation, for an undertaking never do so again, leading to a legal challenge from Cage.

The group withdrew the case at the High Court after the regulator agreed a statement acknowledging that it had no power to require charities to give undertakings for all time under the advisory powers it purported to be using.

The Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Bill attracted opposition in parliament. The legislation, designed to give the Charity Commission additional powers including the ability to issue official warnings to charities and remove any trustee the regulator judges unfit, has given rise to concerns including  the lack of adequate appeal mechanisms.  The legislation has passed through the House of Lords and is being scrutinised by MPs at the committee stage.

Alan Yentob, chair of the defunct charity Kids Company, stood down from his position at the BBC because his role with the charity had become a "distraction". It came at the end of a tumultuous year for those involved in the charity, which closed abruptly in the summer, became the subject of a parliamentary inquiry, a National Audit Office investigation and a Charity Commission statutory inquiry.

The debate over how to fund the Charity Commission rumbled on, and despite objections from the sector, William Shawcross, the regulator’s chair, said it was inevitable that the sector would eventually assume much of the responsibility of funding the regulator. In the comprehensive spending review in November, the government said the commission’s settlement would be frozen until 2019.

The regulator completed the restructure of its five-strong senior management team, led by Paula Sussex, who was appointed in 2014, only to see Tracey Newman, its chief operating officer, stand down after just four months in the role for personal reasons. David Holdsworth was promoted internally to take over the job in December.

Charities got to grips with the lobbying act, which limits the amount that non-party campaigners, including charities, are permitted to spend in the run-up to elections on activities that could be seen as intended to influence the way people vote. A report in January concluded that the charities were experiencing a "chilling effect" and were becoming afraid to speak out on important issues before the general election.

A previous version of this story stated Cage had been funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (which has never funded Cage), rather than the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust. 

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