The Charity Commission has been threatened with judicial review over its refusal to remove charities which promote homeopathy from the register of charities.
The Good Thinking Society, a registered charity which promotes “curiosity and rational thinking”, chaired by the science writer Simon Singh, wrote to the Commission saying it would bring a judicial review unless the Commission promised a review of homeopathy charities, within a reasonable time, which might lead to their removal.
It also called on the Commission to stop registering more charities offering alternative treatments.
Since then the charity has received a response from the Commission and is considering what its next steps are. The charity will update its position later today.
'The Commission has failed to protect the public'
On Friday the Good Thinking Society said the Commission has not done enough to investigate whether health charities, including those promoting homeopathy, are providing a legitimate treatment.
It said a number of scientists have been in correspondence with the Commission over the last two years. In June, a group of 11 doctors wrote to the Commission saying it had “failed in its duty to protect the public” by not removing these charities. The Commission promised a review but the charity said its response did not go far enough.
A statement on the charity’s website said: “The Good Thinking Society find the Charity Commission’s response to be wholly inadequate and are deeply concerned to see no clear action taken to prevent charities from promoting misleading treatments, and to protect the public from these ineffective therapies, which are potentially dangerous if used in place of effective treatments.
“Furthermore, the correspondence with the Commission has raised serious questions as to the legality of their position: the Charity Commission have a statutory obligation to review and regulate charities; we do not believe they have legal discretion to decide which charities they arbitrarily allow to continue operating without a clear public benefit.”
Commission: Charitable purposes include complementary methods
A spokesman for the Charity Commission said: “We received a letter sent by solicitors acting for the Good Thinking Society regarding the threat of legal action and have responded. We will consider these issues further.
“Organisations that apply to register as a charity are considered on an individual basis, looking at the evidence available at the time, and against the legal test we have to apply.
“Charitable purposes for advancing health include conventional methods as well as complementary, alternative or holistic methods. To be charitable there needs to be sufficient evidence that the organisation is capable of furthering its purposes.”