18 September 2019 - Article
The charity tribunal has given the Charity Commission permission to appeal to the upper tribunal in the case of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church St Mary of Debre Tsion.
The Charity Commission opened an inquiry into the church on 31 March 2014. On 14 April, the trustees of the charity appealed to the charity tribunal against the decision to open an inquiry. The Commission then closed the inquiry on 12 May. The charity tribunal instructed the charity to withdraw its appeal or give reasons why its appeal should not be struck out. The church gave seven reasons, including:
- the lack of a review of the lawfulness of the inquiry;
- the church’s view that the Commission’s inquiry was based upon a misinterpretation of the charity’s governing document; and
- reputational damage to the charity resulting from the inquiry being made public.
In July, charity tribunal judge Alison McKenna held that the church could continue its appeal against the Commission’s decision to open an inquiry, notwithstanding the fact the Commission had closed it.
The Commission appealed the charity tribunal’s decision to allow the church’s appeal to continue and has now been given permission to proceed to the upper tribunal. In the directions, Judge McKenna said ‘this is a novel area for the charity jurisdiction and one in which the guidance of the upper tribunal would be welcome’.
Until the Commission’s appeal is decided, the proceedings in the charity tribunal will be stayed.
Two further appeals against the Commission’s decision to open inquiries, by Al-Fatiha Global and Augustine Housing Trust, will take place later this year.