Full Fact loses appeal to charity tribunal

Organisation that checks accuracy of public statements cannot have charity status because 'promoting civic responsibility and engagement' is not exclusively charitable, tribunal says

Charity Tribunal
Charity Tribunal

Full Fact, an organisation that checks the accuracy of statements made by politicians and journalists, has lost its appeal to the charity tribunal over the Charity Commission’s decision not to grant it charitable status.

The organisation appealed to the tribunal in January after the regulator ruled in December that it had not provided enough evidence that its activities were capable of being "completely independent and authoritative".

Full Fact’s work includes publishing reports about the accuracy of public statements. It has recently published reports on the accuracy of media claims that cuts to police funding could lead to a 3 per cent rise in crime, and on newspaper reports about how often homes are burgled. The organisation first applied to register as a charity in August 2009.

The tribunal’s decision document says: "The commission’s principal concern about the purposes and activities of Full Fact have consistently been that they permit a political purpose to be pursued and that the contribution of Full Fact to any public debate or public issue will merely be the addition of another opinion or viewpoint on the relevant issue."

It says the regulator was concerned that by registering Full Fact it would risk "creating a precedent that could lead to many organisations that purport to advance correct information or the truth on any political issue, claiming charitable status".

Full Fact had included education and "civic responsibility and engagement" among its proposed charitable objects. The tribunal ruled that Full Fact’s activities were capable of being charitable if they were "pursued according to the standards and with the methodology appropriate to the provision of education" but that the phrase "civic responsibility and engagement" was too ambiguous.

Its ruling says: "The purpose of promoting ‘civic responsibility and engagement’ is not exclusively charitable as the reference to ‘engagement’ permits a range of charitable and non-charitable activities."

Will Moy, director of Full Fact, told Third Sector he was pleased that the tribunal had said the organisation was capable of being charitable. Asked whether he would reapply to the commission with amended objects, he said it was too early to comment.

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