Charity Commission report on the Preston Down Trust

Readers may recall that in January 2014 the Charity Commission for England and Wales agreed to accept an application for registration from the Preston Down Trust of the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church. The Commission has now published a report on its monitoring of the activities of the Trust, (registered charity no. 1155382): the publication is the first monitoring report into a newly-registered Plymouth Brethren Christian Church.

The Commission did not identify any evidence of significant issues relating to the Trust’s compliance with its governing document and the promises made to the Commission as a condition of registration. The Commission found that the trustees were taking steps to ensure that the charity was well run, though there were some points for the trustees to address in order to improve openness and transparency, including taking further steps to publish to its members the requirements of its doctrines and practices and considering what else they could do to publicise all the meetings that are accessible to non-members, so as to show that there is genuine openness of worship to the public. The trustees were reminded that it was essential that they should continue to demonstrate public benefit on a regular basis, provide evidence that they were doing so and report on the matter in the Trustees’ Annual Report.

The Commission identified governance and financial issues on which it provided regulatory advice and guidance and set an action plan to ensure that the trustees have the core policies and procedures in place that are necessary for the proper governance and administration of a charity. The trustees cooperated fully with the review and have already started to make progress on the action plan.

The Commission registered the Preston Down Trust on the basis that it would adopt a Deed of Variation, binding on the trustees, with a statement of its doctrines and practices and a framework for the administration of the Trust in a way that would ensure that it was charitable. The Commission made a commitment to review the Trust’s compliance with the Deed of Variation 12 months after its registration as a charity in 2014.

The results of the review of the Preston Down Trust include the following:

  • the charity has taken some steps to ensure that adherents of the religion are aware of the new Deed of Variation dated 10 January 2014, however the Commission has recommended that the charity take further steps and publicise this more widely;
  • meetings are in principle open – details of Sunday evening meeting are displayed outside the gospel hall – but the Commission believes that the trustees could do more to advertise and make non-members aware of these meetings, beyond signage, and has recommended that the trustees consider what else they can do to publicise all the meetings that are accessible to non-members so as to show that there is genuine openness of worship to the public; and
  • there is evidence that the charity undertakes activities to engage with the general public, including clearing litter, repairing coastal defences, work within the local hospital and prison: it also applies funds for the benefit of the wider community, such as helping homeless persons and a donation towards an air ambulance.

As part of its monitoring and review the Commission considered issue of detriment and harm: in particular, the charity’s dealings with former members. The Commission contacted individuals who had previously raised concerns about the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church; but they had no complaints to raise about the Preston Down Trust specifically.

96 individual gospel halls of the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church have now registered with the Commission. Monitoring of other Plymouth Brethren Christian Churches is in progress and more reports will follow. The Commission’s press release confirmed that it

“will assess and consider complaints made against any brethren gospel halls following their registration and will report publicly on its conclusions where it is in the public interest to do so.”

Cite this article as: Frank Cranmer, "Charity Commission report on the Preston Down Trust" in Law & Religion UK, 15 February 2016, https://lawandreligionuk.com/2016/02/15/charity-commission-report-on-the-preston-down-trust/

5 thoughts on “Charity Commission report on the Preston Down Trust

  1. The trusts relate to individual churches while the ‘church’ per se is a global centrally controlled cult run by one man in Sydney. The damage to members and past members is NOT done by the individual churches but by the brutal universal ‘fellowship’.

    The damage is still being perpetuated with families continuing to be divided, contact between those in the cult and those expelled still not allowed to any or any meaningful extent, and many fathers still not able to have court directed/sanctioned access to their estranged children. This is an abusive church and is man controlled, and despite their statements to the contrary, could not be further from what is regarded as a mainstream church. What church today advocates suicide for any who consider leaving the cult?

    They expel members for trivial offences like having a fax or computer as in my case, and then the rules are changed but nothing is done to address the damage and hurt to those expelled for what is later permitted. Many year later they may admit that they were unfair in their excommunication action, but in many cases this divided the family, divorce followed and the excluded member remarried and by so doing has disqualified themselves from ever being reaccepted back into the cult fellowship, and remaining estranged from their children forever.

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  4. I can endorse what Peter French writes here. Almost every day on Facebook there are stories from mothers and fathers unable to see their children and from adult children unable to see their parents. The brethren claim this is an individual family matter – but we all know it is not. All former members want is to be treated with the respect they deserve, to be informed when their family members are unwell or move house or whatever, and to have normal relations with them again.

    Currently many are struggling too, hearing that things they were made to leave over, such as staying in a hotel, or going to a fun fair or swimming pool, are now allowed. All that suffering – for what. Many are too scared to contact the Commission to complain – because they know that their families still in can suffer and/or that the minimal contact they do have with their family might cease altogether.
    Please encourage former members to come forward.

  5. I am somewhat perturbed by this report.

    Not every member of the PBCC has been made aware of this deed of variation, which in itself is immoral and deceptive, so how can any change be allowed to be made to former members?!

    Their meetings are not ‘open’, in fact a set preaching is given on a Sunday evening should any non members attend.

    The PBCC only started engaging with the public when the initial issue arose with the PDT. The bible and burger dates are a mere facade. They still refuse to engage, include or show compassion to their own former members/families.

    Many ex-members, myself included lost their family, job and home overnight, the results of which are at times, insurmountable.

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