The Steadfast Trust, an organisation for people of Anglo-Saxon origin which was criticised in an ITV documentary, has appealed to the Charity Tribunal against a decision to de-register it as a charity.
The organisation featured in the documentary on 18 February – part of the Exposure series – which claimed to expose racist behaviour. On the same day the Charity Commission issued a statement saying that the charity had been de-registered.
The Commission said it was not clear that the trust’s beneficiaries, which the trust describes as 'members of the Anglo-Saxon community living in England', “could be identified or are a sufficient section of the public, as required in charity law”.
It said the trust had never been a charity, and had been registered in error in 2004.
The trust has also complained to Ofcom about what it says is an unfair portrayal, and is considering defamation action against the programme makers.
The charity made its appeal in documents received by the Charity Tribunal on 25 March.
Robin Tilbrook, principal at Tilbrook’s Solicitors, who represents the trust, said that the Charity Commission’s argument was flawed because courts had already clearly recognised the existence of English people as a definable racial group.
“This is the third time they have challenged whether the ethnic English really exist,” he said. “Their position seems odd since they accept the existence of other ethnic groups, including the Scottish and Welsh. English has been accepted as a group in racial discrimination cases.
“This time, however, they have given the charity no opportunity to respond but simply de-registered them. This is against what lawyers refer to as the rules of natural justice, which include the right to respond to allegations set against you.
“Their approach is blatantly discriminatory.”
Tilbrook said the debate at the tribunal was currently focused on the procedural point of whether the trust’s appeal had been made in time.
He said the Charity Commission claimed the date it de-registered the charity was 19 January, but that it had done so only by sending an email to an address which was not in operation.
Tilbrook also said the trust has complained to Ofcom over the portrayal of the charity, and was considering bringing a defamation case against the makers of the programme.
“The way the charity was portrayed in the programme relies on smear and innuendo,” he said. “While two of the trustees featured in the programme, the people held in the programme as being unsuitable were not trustees.
“It is possible that the programme only featured the trust for profiling reasons, because it wanted to attack Muslim and Hindu charities but was afraid of being accused of racism.”