Do not promote terrorism, warns new Charity Commission guidance

By Ian Griggs, Third Sector Online, 22 January 2013

Sam Younger

Sam Younger

Chief executive Sam Younger says charities are often at risk because they deal with emotive or controversial issues

Trustees must take steps to ensure partner organisations and speakers at their events are not linked to terrorism, according to new guidance from the Charity Commission.

The guidance is the fifth and latest chapter in a compliance toolkit called Protecting Charities from Harm. It was devised by the regulator to help trustees prevent their charities being used to promote extremist views and to comply with charity law.

The guidance is particularly aimed at religious charities, students unions and education charities, among others, which the commission believes are at particular risk of inadvertently promoting extremist views.

According to charity law, trustees must protect their charities’ assets from abuse and make sure they do not promote extremism.

In practice, this means trustees must vet proposed speakers and partners as well as carry out risk assessments of proposed events.

They must also manage events to prevent any "inappropriate activities" and to deal with any problems promptly.

The guidance says extremists can attempt to abuse charities by using their premises or communications networks to promote their views.  

Trustees have a duty to manage situations in which speakers or literature might break the law by encouraging or glorifying terrorism, inciting racial or religious hatred or inciting criminal acts.

Charity leaders must also preserve their organisations’ reputations and work within the objects at all times, the guidance says.

"Charities are often at the cutting edge of debates about controversial or emotive issues, and the nature of the work of many charities provokes a strong, often a critical, response," said Sam Younger, chief executive of the commission. "Our guidance does not ask trustees to avoid these risks at all costs. However, trustees have a duty to comply with the law and protect their charity and its reputation."

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