Charity Commission staff 'cannot make decisions alone', court rules
A charity watchdog in Northern Ireland cannot delegate decision-making powers to staff acting alone, the High Court has ruled.
Madam Justice McBride held that the legislation means the Charity Commission can only reach determinations when it meets as a complete body.
She described the case as having vital importance for the public at large.
Proceedings centred on a series of appeals over the same question of law.
Lawyers debated the legal right of Commission employees acting alone to act under the provisions of the Charity Act (Northern Ireland) 2008.
In two appeals the Charity Tribunal found staff could make decisions, but held against delegation in a third case.
Amid the uncertainty, Madam Justice McBride stressed the need to for the issue to the clarified.
Counsel for the Commission argued that earlier interpretative legislation enabled it to delegate decision-making functions to staff.
However, Attorney General John Larkin QC disputed that interpretation.
He contended that a power of delegation should not be implied, and that discharge of functions by the staff is not inherently lawful.
Ruling on the case, the judge identified no implied power to delegate to staff.
On that basis, she held that the only way the Commission can carry out its decision making functions is either by meeting as a complete body, or acting in accordance with the powers set out in the Act.
Belfast Telegraph Digital