18 March 2019 - Article
Following an appeal to the charity tribunal, the tribunal has overturned a decision by the Charity Commission to refuse to register the Independent Press Regulation Trust (the 'IPRT') as a new charity.
The IPRT has been set up to provide financial assistance to a new press standards regulator and to promote ethical conduct and best practice in journalism. It has been established to support a regulator that is compliant with the recommendations of the Leveson Inquiry.
The IPRT first applied to be registered in early 2014 and its application was rejected by the Charity Commission in May 2014. Its trustees requested a review of this decision and in October 2014 the Charity Commission published its decision, which reaffirmed the decision not to register. The Charity Commission's main reason was that it could not be clear that supporting the regulation of the press was a proper charitable purpose recognised in charity law, and that it would not be able to judge whether a regulator supported by the IPRT would be Leveson-compliant, since the Press Recognition Panel, established by Royal Charter after the Leveson inquiry, had yet to begin recognising regulators.
The trustees appealed against this decision to the charity tribunal, and the tribunal decided that the organisation's purposes can be considered as exclusively charitable under English charity law, and directed the Charity Commission to register the IPRT. The charity tribunal accepted that the IPRT's purposes were analogous to charitable purposes created under legislation passed before the Charities Act 2011 – namely, promoting the ethical and moral improvement of the community.
Further, in the judgment, tribunal added that:
'if such a regulator cannot be established by the government for constitutional reasons and ought not to be established by the industry itself for reasons of propriety and public confidence, then the charity sector is uniquely placed to be able to offer both the mechanism and the means by which a benefit to the community as a whole can be achieved'.