The Charity Tribunal has quashed a Charity Commission decision to appoint an interim manager to a Sikh charity under investigation.
The Sikh Channel Community Broadcasting Company Limited appealed a decision by the Commission to appoint Philip Watts and Sarah Tomlinson of Anthony Collins Solicitors as interim managers of the charity.
The charity was registered to further the religious and charitable work of the Sikh religion and community and to advance knowledge of the Sikh faith. Data for the financial year ending 30 September 2018 puts its income at £1.6m and total expenditure at £1.5m.
On 13 November 2019 the Commission opened a statutory inquiry, and on 19 March 2020 the Commission made an order to appoint an interim manager.
Interim managers are appointed to take over the running of a charity where the Commission has identified misconduct or mismanagement, or there is a need to protect a charity’s property.
Charity says Commission did not listen
The charity’s submission to the Tribunal complained that the Commission had not listened to explanations about an entry on bank statements referring to “Jewellery Quarter”, and that the Commission had not recognised that Sikhs have special characteristics.
According to the judgment, the Commission said it believed that new trustees have "failed in their duties as trustees since their appointment by failing to recognise and manage conflicts of interest". It was also concerned that a former trustee continued to be involved in decisions.
The Tribunal considered whether the appointment of an interim manager was necessary and/or premature. It did not consider whether the appointment of two individuals from the solicitors firm Anthony Collins was, or was not, the right appointment to make.
In the judgment dated 31 July 2020 and signed by Judge Rebecca Worth, the Tribunal said that the new trustees were attempting to deal with the charity's issues.
The judgment says: "We are satisfied that, on the balance of probabilities, those trustees demonstrated a genuine desire to act in the interest of the charity and we find that they were independently minded."
The judgment adds that it was "regrettable" that the Commission did not choose to appoint skilled trustees from a Sikh background.
It concludes: "We ourselves would not exercise our discretion to appoint an interim manager."
A Commission spokesperson said: “We are aware of the judgment and are considering our next steps. Our statutory inquiry into the charity is ongoing.”