The charity tribunal will consider whether to consolidate two separate appeals lodged last year against the Charity Commission’s opening of two statutory inquiries into a London-based Ethiopian church charity.
The commission first opened an investigation into the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church St Mary of Debre Tsion, based in Battersea, south-west London, on 31 March last year after reviewing the charity’s governing document and compliance with an action plan the regulator had issued to trustees.
The trustees of the charity appealed to the charity tribunal against the opening of the statutory inquiry on 14 April 2014. In May 2014 the commission informed the charity and the charity tribunal that it had closed the inquiry.
The church, however, decided not to withdraw its appeal, instead continuing to question the basis on which the inquiry was opened.
In July last year, the commission was itself given permission by the charity tribunal to appeal to the upper tribunal about the charity tribunal’s refusal to strike that initial appeal out.
The commission opened another inquiry into the church on 6 October, although it did not say on what grounds, and on 23 October the charity’s nine trustees again appealed against the commission’s decision to open the inquiry.
On 17 March, the upper tribunal allowed the commission's appeal against the charity tribunal decision to be withdrawn without a decision being made. The first charity tribunal appeal was on hold during these upper tribunal proceedings. A spokeswoman for the commission said the regulator withdrew its upper tribunal appeal because it considered it would not be proportionate to continue with the appeal and it wanted the church's two appeals to be heard together.
A new charity tribunal document published this week says the commission has suggested consolidating the two separate appeals against statutory inquiries into one single appeal, but the charity’s trustees have not agreed to this.
The document says the commission must file a response to the church’s initial appeal, and an application for the consolidation of the cases, by the end of this week. The church’s trustees will have until 18 May to respond to these. If consolidation is not agreed, the tribunal will rule on the matter.