The Northern Ireland Court of Appeal has ruled that a single trustee, rather than an entire board, has the right to bring a charity tribunal appeal against the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland.
The appeal court made the decision after John Larkin, the Attorney General for Northern Ireland, intervened in the case of William Allen, a former trustee of the Disabled Police Officers Association Northern Ireland, who was appealing against the CCNI’s decision to open a statutory inquiry into the charity.
The CCNI opened its inquiry in February 2014. Allen applied to the tribunal to appeal the decision in August 2014, but was rejected on the grounds that he was out of time and that he did not have standing to appeal as a single trustee.
But Larkin challenged the ruling in the High Court, arguing that the tribunal had erred in law by saying that one trustee could not apply to tribunal.
The Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2008 says that "the persons who have control or management" of the charity have the right to appeal to the tribunal. But Larkin argued that "persons" should also be interpreted to mean a single person. The High Court agreed with this argument.
The CCNI then challenged the interpretation but, in a decision published last week, the Court of Appeal ruled that a single trustee could bring an appeal to tribunal.
However, the tribunal’s original ruling, that Allen’s application was out of time, has not been challenged, meaning his appeal against the opening of a statutory inquiry will not proceed at this stage.
A CCNI spokeswoman said: "Mr Allen has not won the right to appeal the opening of the statutory inquiry."
Allen, who resigned after the CCNI gave notice of its intention to remove him as a trustee in 2014, played no part in the appeal process to the High Court or the CCNI’s challenge to the Court of Appeal, according to the CCNI.
The regulator has concluded its investigation into the charity, and in March it published a preliminary report saying it was satisfied that all issues at the charity had now been resolved.
The CCNI spokeswoman said: "The commission will publish a full report on its statutory inquiry into the DPOANI once all litigation matters have been fully resolved."
Third Sector was unable to contact Allen for comment.