The Jersey government has approved the first system of charity registration, a charity regulator and a charity tribunal on the island.
The draft law was passed last week, but it is still not in force because it requires final approval by the privy council, which could take several months.
The Jersey Law Commission originally proposed the establishment of a charity regulator and the development of charity law on the island in 2004. Public consultations held last summer and in spring showed strong public support for an updated definition of charity.
The new law says "that a charity can only have charitable purposes and must provide public benefit". The charitable purposes set out on page 84 of the draft closely mirror those in force in England and Wales since the Charities Act 2011.
The major difference is that the "promotion of the efficiency of the armed forces of the Crown, or of the efficiency of the police, fire and rescue services or ambulance services", present in English law, is not a charitable purpose in Jersey. It also sets out that charities cannot advance the interests of a political party.
The law will create a position of Charity Commissioner who will determine if an entity passes the charity test and place them on a public register if it does.
This person is likely to be contracted to work about 75 days a year, although more will be required in the first year. There will also be a charity tribunal comprising four to eight members to provide a "multi-eyed" review of the commissioner’s decision, the law says.
The law also makes the individuals sitting on charities’ governing bodies – essentially trustees, but legally known as governors – responsible for the charity’s compliance with the law, and restricts the use of the words "charity" and "charitable" so that they can be used only by registered charities.
Because there has been no registration until now, it is not clear how many charities there are in Jersey, but the Association of Jersey Charities has 294 members.
The neighbouring Channel Island of Guernsey has also changed its charities regime recently. On 30 June, after two consultations that closed in May, the responsibility for the registration and administration of non-profit organisations on Guernsey transferred from its Income Tax Office to the Guernsey Registry, the island’s equivalent of Companies House.