Benevolent funds tribunal case is 'ill-judged and misguided' says umbrella body

Dominic Fox, chief executive, Association of Charitable Organisations

Benevolent funds tribunal case is 'ill-judged and misguided' says umbrella body2

Governance | Tania Mason | 15 Nov 2011

The Association of Charitable Organisations (ACO) has criticised the Charity Commission for forcing its members to waste time and money on the Charity Tribunal case being heard in London this week.

Shortly after the case began this morning ACO chief executive Dominic Fox (pictured) told that the Commission’s decision to bring the case now, in such a time of austerity, was “ill-judged and misguided”.

“A lot of time and money has been spent confirming the status quo,” he said, “time and money that ACO members could have better used helping people in need.

“We hope this will be the last unnecessary public benefit case put before the Charity Tribunal.

“It is time the Charity Commission began focusing its resources on regulating malpractice, not alienating its supporters in the charity sector.”

Twenty ACO members are represented in the case.

Fox added that the Attorney General agrees with his members on all questions that arise out of the reference made to the Tribunal, which demonstrates how unnecessary the case is.


The Commission asked the Attorney General to make the reference in order to clarify the law regarding public benefit for benevolent funds that exist to help certain groups of people, such as members of a family or former employees of a company.

The proceedings are not adversarial and the Charity Commission is not advocating a particular view of the law. It simply wishes to clarify the effects of the Charities Act 2006.

The case began before Mr Justice Warren and Judge Alison McKenna this morning with no less than eight barristers representing various ACO members and the Attorney General.

Commission response

Invited to respond to the ACO's criticism, a Charity Commission spokeswoman pointed out that it was actually the Attorney General who had made the reference to the Tribunal, albeit at the request of the regulator.  She also said it was not a foregone conclusion that the Tribunal's judgment would confirm the status quo, adding "that's why we want it clarified".

Andrew Studd
17 Nov 2011

I must just make it clear, in case it is misunderstood, that ACO members and the AG did not have eight barristers between them. ACO did have a barrister representing it and a group of members as interveners. The same barrister represented three ACO members who were parties to the proceedings. The other barristers, and I agree there were many, were representing other parties to the proceedings who had different perspectives.

ACO worked hard to identify any of its members at threat if the decision were to go against them. The consequences could still be severe (though we are hopeful that the Tribunal will confirm that the law was not changed by the 2006 Act). A group of those ACO members came together to put their case and to share the costs of responding to the reference for the benefit of the wider benevolence sector. ACO should be congratulated for co-ordinating such a response.

Nick Brooks
Head of not for profit
Kingston Smith
15 Nov 2011

As Chair of the Chartered Accountants Benevolent Association and one of the bigger benevolent charities we thought it was our duty to defend our position and that of other similar charities and that it is why CABA is one of the eight parties adjoined to this Reference. It is costly and was, in my opinion, unnecessary, certainly at this time. Part of the issue was that the Reference was so obliquely worded it was impossible to see which benevolent charities might be in more danger than others, hence everyone piled in!


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