New Charity Legislation - the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2022
Northern Ireland has a new piece of legislation - The Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2022 (the “Act”), having received Royal Assent on 30 March 2022.
The genesis of the Act was the judgment in McKee & Others v Charity Commission for Northern Ireland delivered in February 2020 which held that the Charity Act (Northern Ireland) 2008 did not provide the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland (the “Commission”) authority to delegate decision making to staff acting alone and that as such, the Commission must meet as a complete body to lawfully make decisions. Following that judgment an Independent Review of Charity Regulation in Northern Ireland was commissioned by the Minister for Communities which ultimately recommended new legislation, which takes the form of the Act.
The Act serves to effectively reinstate the full register of charities and give certainty to charities, the public, funders and others as to which organisations are registered charities in Northern Ireland.
The Act will also increase the public transparency of the charity sector by re-instating annual reporting by charities, supporting the public and others in undertaking checks on the charities they support. In addition, the Act will make lawful just over 7,200 decisions which had been made in good faith by Commission staff.
This includes a range of consents given by the Commission to charities, such as agreement to changes to governing documents, or permission to carry out certain transactions. Certainty will now be brought to all those decisions and reassurance to charities that they can rely upon them and any transactions which have been carried out on foot of the decisions.
Not all decisions will be reinstated, and you can find out which ones will be unaffected on the charity commission for Northern Ireland’s website.
The Act, as a new piece of legislation, will no doubt create some questions for charities, from what their annual reporting requirements will be to how they can appeal a previous decision of the Commission.
For advice on what the new Act will mean for charity regulation, and how it will impact on charities and their legal duties please contact Rosie Timoney or another member of our Charities team.