The Steadfast Trust has said that it plans to appeal to the charity tribunal against the Charity Commission’s "biased" and "illegal" decision to remove it from the register of charities, the organisation’s solicitor has said.
Earlier this month the commission removed the organisation – which describes itself as benefiting "indigenous" English people and which was registered in September 2004 – after covert footage from an ITV Exposure documentary about extremism was shared with the regulator.
Robin Tilbrook, who runs the Essex-based Tilbrook's Solicitors, told Third Sector that Steadfast planned to take "all proper steps" to challenge what it deems to be an "improper, unfair and illegal decision".
"The Charity Commission’s revocation of the Steadfast Trust’s long-standing registration as a charity was manifestly motivated by improper and irrelevant considerations of political correctness amounting to bias," he said. "The commission has also proceeded in a procedurally unfair way. Our client has been advised that the decision was illegal and ultra vires."
Tilbrook, who is chairman of the nationalist party the English Democrats, confirmed that Steadfast was preparing to appeal to the tribunal within the 42-day window that organisations have to challenge a decision made by the commission. He said that judicial review could also be an option at a later stage.
Asked for a response to the commission’s statement that it was not clear that Steadfast’s beneficiaries, described as "members of the Anglo-Saxon community living in England", could be identified or were a sufficient section of the public, Tilbrook said: "It’s complete nonsense." He said a legal debate that took place between a former BBC Scotland sports presenter, Mark Souster, and the BBC in 2002 had identified the English as a racial group.
Tilbrook added: "The Charity Commission does not have the right to remove a charity’s registration simply because it doesn’t like the look of the charity. That is not a proper basis on which it can proceed. To revoke, it would have to have found that the Steadfast Trust was not a charity within the meaning of the law, and the commission has utterly failed to do that."
A spokeswoman for the commission said the Steadfast Trust had the right to appeal the regulator’s decision that it was not charitable. She declined to comment further.
Earlier this week, the commission admitted it had taken too long to remove the organisation from the charities register, having first had concerns about Steadfast’s objects in 2007.