Appeal against Disabled Police Officers Association inquiry ruling rejected

The Charity Commission has lost an appeal against a ruling on the right to challenge its holding of an inquiry into the running of Nothern Ireland's Disabled Police Officers Association.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 12th October 2016, 4:02 pm
Updated Tuesday, 25th October 2016, 2:45 pm
Attorney General John Larkin had backed the High Courts original dismissal of the Charity Commission appeal
Attorney General John Larkin had backed the High Courts original dismissal of the Charity Commission appeal

The commission was seeking to overturn a High Court verdict that a single trustee has legal standing to seek a review of its decision to launch a probe into issues of governance and financial control.

But with Attorney General John Larkin backing the original ruling, senior judges dismissed the appeal.

The case involved Billy Allen, who was suspended from his position as chairman of the association (DPOA) in August 2014.

Four other trustees were also suspended pending the outcome of the Charity Commission investigation. All five officers denied any wrong-doing.

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Mr Allen appealed against the action taken against him and sought an extension of time for a review of the decision to institute an inquiry under the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2008.

His case went before the Charity Tribunal which concluded that he did not have standing.

It also dismissed an application to extend time for a review of the decision to begin a statutory inquiry.

In December last year a High Court judge reversed the tribunal’s determination, holding that a single trustee does have standing to seek a review.

That ruling was the subject of the Charity Commission’s challenge in the Court of Appeal.

Counsel for the commission argued that the judge wrongly held that an individual trustee has control or management of an institution.

But Mr Larkin QC sided against the tribunal’s application of the law.

He also supported the High Court decision that a single trustee is covered by the reference to “any person” in the relevant legislation covering the right to a review.

The attorney general argued that a dominant voice should not be able to shut out what may be an “oppressed or dissenting minority”.

Individual trustees could be left powerless to take action against what may be a “scandalous abuse” of investigative powers, he contended.

Dismissing the challenge, Lord Justice Weatherup said: “We have not been satisfied on either of the commission’s grounds of appeal.”