Charity lawyers and the Charity Commission have said they expect charities and individuals to continue asking for internal reviews of commission decisions before appealing to the charity tribunal, despite the fact they are no longer required to do so.
The requirement was scrapped when the charity tribunal was absorbed into a new two-tier tribunal structure in September. However, a spokeswoman for the commission said it still expected internal reviews - known as decision reviews - to remain popular.
"Decision review is a comparatively quick process, which offers a genuine reconsideration of our decision with a real prospect of having a decision overturned," she said. Of 17 decisions taken to review in 2008/09, five were reversed, three were modified and nine upheld, she said.
"It also provides an opportunity for the applicant to talk to the decision-maker in a relatively informal way, and applicants can apply as much or as little time and resources to a decision review as they want," she said.
Ian Davies, a senior associate at Wilsons solicitors, said the necessity for decision reviews had probably been removed to avoid the impression that the commission was acting as the gatekeeper to the tribunal.
But he said that a decision review was a good first option. "Our experience is that if you can get something before the right senior person you can sort out any misunderstandings," he said. "Also, whatever was promised, tribunal procedure isn't quick or cheap."
Internal reviews also helped to clarify any issues a future tribunal case would have to consider, he added.
James Sinclair Taylor, head of the charities team at Russell-Cooke, said he would advise clients to go to the tribunal only if they had to. "It is valuable but, like all tribunals, it is not as straightforward as it could be," he said.