23 September 2019 - Article
A recent decision of the First-tier Tribunal (Charity) in the case of Muhoro v Charity Commission for England and Wales refused to grant an extension of time to challenge a decision of the Charity Commission.
This case concerned a dispute between the parties regarding whether the charity was lawfully dissolved by a resolution of its members on 19 September 2013. On 31 October 2014, the Charity Commission made an Order in relation to this dispute and notified Rev. Geoffrey Muhoro (the Appellant) through his solicitor on 17 November 2014, of his right to appeal to the Tribunal against its decision. The letter provided that the right to apply to the Tribunal must be exercised within 42 days of the date of the Order. The letter also stated that as an alternative, the Appellant could apply to the Charity Commission for an internal Decision Review.
The Appellant applied for an internal Decision Review. Following the Review, on 26 January 2015, the Charity Commission upheld the original Order. The Charity Commission wrote to the Appellant notifying the outcome of its Review and stated that as he was now out of time to apply for an appeal, he would need to make an application to the Tribunal for an extension of time.
The Appellant submitted his Notice of Appeal to the Tribunal on 12 March 2015. The Appellant's solicitor explained that the Appeal had not been submitted out of time because it was made within 42 days of the date of the Decision Review, and that the Appellant had been subject to an obligation to exhaust all other remedies before applying to the Tribunal.
In rejecting the Appellant's solicitor's arguments, the Tribunal held the application was made out of time and that the time limit ran from the date the Charity Commission made the Order (i.e. 31 October 2014). The outcome of the internal Decision Review did not constitute a fresh decision.
The Tribunal noted that whilst the system can be confusing for a litigant in person, in this case, the Appellant had had the benefit of legal representation throughout. Further, the Appellant could have made a protective application to the Tribunal within the original deadline of 42 days requesting a stay of proceedings, pending outcome of the internal Decision Review. Had the Appellant done so, that would have protected the Appellant's challenge of the Charity Commission's decision.
This decision highlights the importance of ensuring that if a decision is to be appealed, it must be done within 42 days of the date that the Charity Commission makes an appealable decision, and not – as was the case here – from the date of any subsequent internal review of that decision.