The Charity Tribunal for Northern Ireland has rejected an animal charity’s appeal to pause its legal proceedings against the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland while the parties seek an out-of-court resolution.
The regulator opened a statutory inquiry into administration and governance concerns at the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals – which is separate from the England and Wales charity RSPCA – in December last year.
This came to light in June after the charity appealed against the decision to open the inquiry at the Charity Tribunal for Northern Ireland. The tribunal allowed the appeal, despite the fact it was lodged outside the regular time limit, a directions document published last month said. It gave the CCNI until 28 July to formally respond to the appeal.
A new directions document, dated 31 July and published this week, says that the USPCA has since made an application to adjourn the appeal process for three months in order "to achieve an agreed resolution of the matters at issue" between it and the CCNI. The directions say this would be facilitated by a review into the charity’s governance, currently being undertaken by the commission.
The regulator accepted this application, but the tribunal rejected it on the grounds that since August 2013 "there have been ongoing discussions between the parties to seek to resolve the matters at issue leading to these proceedings, to no avail", the document says.
The tribunal also says in the document that the USPCA application "was distinctly vague and lacking in detail".
Another directions document with the same date says that the CCNI did not meet the 28 July deadline to provide a response to the appeal, and had asked the tribunal for an extension until 15 August. This extension was granted.
However, the parties are criticised for their handling of the appeal process in the first of the two directions. "The parties are reminded that it is the role and function of the tribunal, not that of the parties, to manage these proceedings," it says.
A spokeswoman for the regulator said: "The charity and the commission are involved in ongoing discussions to resolve the situation and, thus, both applied for delays in the legal proceedings to allow the discussions to continue."
A spokesman for the USPCA said: "We’re working with the commission towards reconciling any concerns they may have."