Charity Commission board should include full-time lawyer, academic argues

Peter Luxton of Cardiff University also says a 'suitors fund' should be created to help charities to make legal challenges

Peter Luxton
Peter Luxton

The Charity Commission should seek to appoint a lawyer to its board who would be a full-time commission employee, according to a legal academic.

Peter Luxton, professor of law at Cardiff University, made the suggestion yesterday during a seminar organised by the centre-right think tank Politeia after being asked by a member of the audience what one change he would want to see.

The commission's part-time board includes two legally-qualified members. Luxton has pointed out that the commission had two full-time legal members between 1993 and 2001.

Luxton outlined his views on the law concerning public benefit in the light of last year’s Upper Tribunal ruling, which concluded that parts of the Charity Commission’s guidance on public benefit for fee-charging charities did not reflect the law.

He said the law on public benefit was still unclear and confusion over the requirement could become problematic for organisations such as religious charities.

Speaking to Third Sector after the seminar, he reiterated calls for the creation of a 'suitors fund' to assist charities in legal challenges, and said it might be worth considering abolition of the charity tribunal and a redirection of its budget to such a fund.

Luxton originally called for a suitors fund to be set up in a pamphlet published in 2009, Making Law? Parliament v The Charity Commission, in which he had advocated a £10 levy on all charities for the formation of a fund.

Luxton said yesterday that only 25 cases had been heard since the tribunal’s inception, despite the tribunal receiving funding that enabled it to process up to 50 legal cases each year.

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