Jersey’s government has today launched a consultation on whether a new law defining charity should be introduced on the island.
Jersey is a crown dependency, with its own independent legal, administrative and fiscal systems, and charities are not governed by English law. Its executive arm is the Council of Ministers, headed by the chief minister.
Currently in Jersey the definition of charity as set out in 1961 Income Tax Law is taken from the 1601 Statute of Elizabeth. The government says its interpretation excludes major areas of charitable activity, such as community and sporting activity, and it does not require all charities to deliver public benefit. There is also no regulatory body overseeing the work of charities based on the island.
The consultation paper says that the new law would define what a charity is, set out the definition of ‘charitable purpose’ and put a requirement in place for all charities to deliver public benefit. The consultation also asks whether the law should make it a requirement for all charities to be included on a public register, and provide for the future introduction of "light-touch, proportionate" regulation.
Assistant Chief Minister, Senator Paul Routier, said in a statement that charities were operating in an "arguably outdated" legal framework. "Our aim in developing this law is to create a clear, modern framework that supports and sustains the diversity and independence of the sector, while also protecting and enhancing public trust through appropriate oversight," he said.
Lyn Wilton, administrator for the Association of Jersey Charities, the representative body of the majority of charitable organisations operating in Jersey, told Third Sector that her organisation had always wanted a charity law.
"It’s been taking a long time as it’s not a top priority law," she said.
She said the AJC had recently set up a new organisation, called the Jersey Voluntary and Community Partnership, which would be able to play a political role in trying to push forward with the new law. Unlike the AJC, the JVCP would not be a membership organisation, she said, but would represent all not-for-profit organisations on the island.
"There isn’t even a definition of charity in Jersey," she said. "It makes it very hard when someone says they are a charity to say that they are not. If we get it defined in law then hopefully there will then also be a document that will help with the set up of a Charity Commission of sorts."
She said the AJC’s member charities all supported the introduction of a new law. "It would definitely be welcomed by the public and it would give them more confidence in giving money to charity," she said.
The consultation will run until 30 August.