Protest over Charity Commission's conduct on new legal powers

Lawyer claims regulator failed to retrieve legacies on behalf of charities

A senior lawyer has accused the Charity Commission of failing to engage with the profession over its controversial new powers to force people to hand over charitable funds they hold on trust.

Ian Davies, a senior associate at Wilsons, said he had contacted the commission for a number of charities that were left money in a will several years earlier but had not yet received it.

He said he asked the commission to use the new power, which is in the Charities Act 2006 and came into force last year, but the commission refused and failed to explain its reasons.

"We sent three letters and really went to town on the second one, but the response was brief to the point of discourtesy," he said.

The commission had an obligation to engage with lawyers as it developed guidelines on when it would use potentially controversial new powers, he said.

"We were surprised and disappointed that a regulator in the 21st century would take this line. If this was a court case, there would be grounds for a judicial review."

A spokeswoman for the commission said she could not comment on individual cases. The regulator was discussing the use of its new powers with the Charity Law Association, she said, and it always aimed to make the basis for its decisions clear.

"If a decision is not understood by an applicant, the case officer will endeavour to clarify it," she said. "In individual cases where there are particular complexities, engagement with legal staff in the commission can be appropriate."

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