Readers may recall that in January the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, governing body of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, appealed to the First-tier Tribunal (Charity) against the Charity Commission’s decision to open a statutory inquiry into various issues within the denomination. The Commission, alerted to concerns about the way in which a congregation in Manchester was alleged to have dealt with a former trustee who had served nine months in prison for the indecent assault of two girls, had announced in June 2014 that it was looking into a number of issues, including the administration, governance and management of the charity and its safeguarding policies. A separate application for a judicial review of the Commission’s decision was rejected on 12 December.
The Tribunal’s directions document issued on 23 December stated that the appeal might be out of time; and TJ Alison McKenna has now ruled that the application is indeed out of time and that she does not propose to exercise her discretion to permit an extension:
“I note that the charity will not be able to challenge the decisions that the Respondent has made if its application to proceed out of time is not allowed, but … I consider that the charity has to a large extent been the author of its own misfortune in this regard. In all these circumstances, I do not consider that it would be appropriate to extend time to allow this application to proceed out of time and I now refuse the charity’s application. Rule 26 (5) provides that unless the Tribunal extends time for a late application it ‘must not admit the Notice of Appeal’. My decision therefore brings these proceedings to a close” .
In June the Commission also opened a statutory inquiry into the Manchester congregation. The congregation’s trustees lodged a separate appeal [CRR/2014/0005] against that inquiry – in which oral argument was to be heard today, 10 March.