Law and religion round-up – 13th February

Charities Bill (Northern Ireland)

The Charities Bill (Northern Ireland) passed its final stage on 8 February. In summary, it largely overrides the judgment of the Court of Appeal in McKee & Hughes v The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland [2020] NICA 13, in which the Court held that the Commission’s staff did not have any decision-making powers when acting alone, and restores what was thought to be the position prior to that judgment. It will:

  • make previous decisions taken by staff of the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland lawful except where to do so could impinge on the rights of individuals under the ECHR;
  • provide refreshed appeal rights for decisions made lawful by the Bill, extending the timeframe for those appeals from 42 days to 91 days from the date of Royal Assent;
  • ensure that charities do not have to account for past periods where they have not continued to do so voluntarily, but will instead be required to report on their first full financial year from 1 April 2022;
  • provide that some decisions required of the Commission may be delegated to Commission staff provided they are set out in a Scheme of Delegation which will be subject to public consultation while stipulating that certain decisions will never be taken by staff; and
  • provide a power for the introduction of a registration threshold below which charities would not be required to register with the Commission or be subject to annual reporting requirements, via subordinate legislation at some future point if deemed appropriate.

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