A court has ruled that the staff of the Charity Commission in Northern Ireland did not have the delegated authority to make orders – casting doubt on hundreds of decisions.
Damien McMahon, president of the Charity Tribunal for Northern Ireland, ruled that the CCNI was limited by a statute which says that decisions must be taken by the board, or by a committee containing at least one member of the board.
Any CCNI decisions which have been taken by the staff, without a board member, are potentially therefore not valid.
McMahon was ruling on an appeal in the case of Sean Caughey, of Newry and Mourne Carers, a small charity which the CCNI investigated last year.
However the position has been complicated because another judgment, issued by the same tribunal, made a ruling with the opposite effect.
That judgment was handed down by Ian Huddleston, in the case of Robert Crawford, who was removed as a trustee of the Disabled Police Officers Association of Northern Ireland.
In both cases the Attorney General for Northern Ireland had intervened in the case to bring the position that the CCNI had acted without authority.
The judgments will affect hundreds of decisions taken by staff. The CCNI has made 141 orders, 78 directions, and 543 casework decisions. It is not clear how many of these would be invalidated.
A Commission spokesman said: “We are aware of a number of Charity Tribunal decisions and ongoing cases, which are based on a point of law regarding the validity of the Commission’s decisions.
“The Commission stands over all our decision making processes, which are based on robust legal advice. The Commission has sought permission to appeal the Caughey Tribunal decision to the High Court.”
The Department for Communities, the parent department of the CCNI, has sought to participate in a separate appeal on the matters at issue.