The charity tribunal’s jurisdiction should be widened to address its "hit-and-miss" nature, a leading charity barrister has said.
Speaking at the Charity Commission’s annual public meeting in London yesterday, Francesca Quint, a barrister at Radcliffe Chambers and a specialist in charity law, described the jurisdiction of the tribunal as "nightmarish".
She said there seemed to be no "rhyme or reason" to the list of types of Charity Commission decision that could be appealed against at the tribunal. She said lots of types of decision were not included on the list.
Decisions that could not be challenged at the tribunal had instead to be taken to the administrative court in the form a judicial review, she said.
"Quite a number of the cases that have come before the tribunal have had to be dismissed because of lack of jurisdiction," said Quint. "I think that one of the first things that needs to be done is to rationalise the jurisdiction of the tribunal so that we don’t have such a hit-and-miss situation."
Asked at the meeting if he agreed that the scope of the tribunal should be widened, Kenneth Dibble, head of legal services at the commission, argued that decisions that were outside the remit of the charity tribunal could be appealed in the administrative courts. "So it’s not as though there's no remedy for applicants to review," he said.
Dibble said the commission would object if all of its decisions could be reviewed by the tribunal when ithe administrative court was "the better and well-established forum for dealing with judicial reviews".
He said: "Why move that jurisdiction from the administrative court to the tribunal? There seems to be no point to it."
Dibble argued that taking cases to the tribunal already put pressure on the commission’s resources. "It’s very important that the commission can function effectively as a regulator and not be overwhelmed by appeals and requests for reviews against its decisions," he told the meeting.In response, Quint said that it was more difficult for a charity trustee to take a case to the administrative court than to the charity tribunal. She said it would in the end be down to the courts to decide where a case was heard so that inappropriate cases would not be sent to the tribunal.