Trustee age limits 'may breach human rights'

Council of Europe report names UK among 14 countries that impose age restrictions

The UK could be in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights because it imposes age restrictions on people who want to register charities.

The claim comes in the first annual report of the Council of Europe's Expert Council on NGO Law, which examines the legal conditions for setting up NGOs across Europe (20 February 2008, page 4).

The council says 14 countries, including the UK, impose minimum age limits on "seeking registration or legal personality" for NGOs, and this appears to contravene Article 11 of the convention, which relates to freedom of association.

In the UK, the relevant group would be trustees, who must be at least 18 in England, or 16 for incorporated charities, and at least 16 in Scotland.

Jeremy McBride, coordinator of the expert council, said there was no definitive answer, but the European Convention on the Rights of the Child required "account to be taken of the evolving capacity of the child" and the meaning of "everyone" in the European Convention included children.

He said: "A blanket bar like this could be contrary to the convention, but I don't think it would expect children to set up organisations on their own."

Selman Ansari, a barrister at law firm Bates Wells & Braithwaite, said minimum age limits would not contravene the convention as long as young people could still set up informal associations.

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