19 March 2019 - Article
In the case of Professor Leon Poller v The Charity Commission for England and Wales decided on 3 June 2010, Professor Poller appealed against the Charity Commission’s determination of the complaints he had made against the Manchester and District Home for Lost Dogs (the ‘Charity’).
Professor Poller was a former trustee, Vice Chairman and Honorary Chairman of the Charity. He first complained to the Charity Commission in 2008 about the governance and conduct of trustees at the Charity and the Charity Commission made enquiries and responded in March 2009.
He then made further complaints about the conduct of the Charity’s 2009 AGM. He was dissatisfied with the Charity Commission’s response and so requested that it undertake a ‘decision review’. The Charity Commission did so, taking into account the oral and written evidence from Professor Poller and others and issued a 22 page decision of its determination.
Professor Poller appealed to the Charity Tribunal against the Charity’s Commission’s determination. Principal Judge Alison McKenna, however, struck the case out on the basis that the Tribunal had no jurisdiction to hear the claim.
The Tribunal’s jurisdiction
The Tribunal is in fact only able to hear appeals against certain acts or omissions of the Charity Commission as set out in the Charities Act 1993. It lists the decisions, orders or directions made by the Commission which may be challenged and specifies which persons can make an appeal in relation to a particular decision, order or decision.
In carrying out the enquiry and issuing its determination, Alison McKenna found that the Charity Commission had not exercised any decision, order or direction challengeable under the Act. On the basis of lack of jurisdiction, therefore, the case was struck out.
She noted in her judgment that Professor Poller was ‘understandably unhappy’ about this situation and read an excerpt from the comments he had made on the decision:
‘There needs to be a way whereby the Charities Acts 1993 and 2006 are implemented to provide adequate opportunity for genuine appeals against Charity Commission’s decisions to be considered by the Tribunals Judiciary other than on the narrow grounds listed in the official documentation.’