Charity tribunal strikes out Hospice Aid UK appeal

The charity had sought to force the Charity Commission to make Hospice UK change its name

Tribunal: said it can't act on things the commission hasn't done
Tribunal: said it can't act on things the commission hasn't done

The charity tribunal has struck out an appeal by the grant-giving body Hospice Aid UK, which sought to force the Charity Commission to make another charity change its name.

Hospice Aid UK, which gives grants to hospices, asked the commission to step in after the hospice support charity Help the Hospices rebranded itself Hospice UK in 2014, arguing the new name was too similar to its own.

The commission declined, despite warning in its guidance on naming a charity that it might ask a newly christened charity to change its name if its similarity to an existing charity was likely to cause confusion.

Hospice Aid UK then took the case to the charity tribunal.

Judge Alison McKenna’s ruling, made last week, said the tribunal could not compel the commission to change its stance, in part because the appeal had been made out of time, but also because the tribunal had jurisdiction only over commission decisions to take action and could not rule on decisions not to act.

McKenna said she was "not persuaded" by the argument that the tribunal could make a ruling about a commission refusal to act under the Charities Act 2011, or under article six of the Human Rights Act, the right to a fair trial.

She said it was "quite clear" that under the 2011 act, which established the tribunal, "the right of appeal created by parliament is against the making of a positive direction only and there is no ambiguity which would allow me to look behind the black letter law [well-established technical legal rules that are no longer subject to reasonable dispute".

On 18 December, the commission decided it would not intervene, and upheld the decision when Hospice Aid UK asked for an internal decision review. But the appeal was not filed until 21 March – outside the 42-day time limit.

The charity’s lawyer argued that the decision review finding, made less than 42 days before the tribunal appeal was submitted, should be the decision that was taken into account, but McKenna rejected this, saying the charity could have submitted an appeal before the decision review, pending the outcome.

A commission spokesman said Hospice Aid UK’s appeal had been brought out of time and in the wrong court.

"We are pleased that the tribunal has agreed with us on this and struck out the appeal, noting that our guidance clearly flags the time limits," he said. "We have no plans to review this decision again."

In August 2014 the regulator opened a still unfinished statutory inquiry into Hospice Aid UK’s governance and fundraising arrangements and whether it was being used for private gain.

No one from Hospice Aid UK was available for comment.

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