Attorney General Larkin can appeal charity tribunal ruling

Attorney General for Northern Ireland, John Larkin QC, claimed the Charity Tribunal reached flawed decisions
Attorney General for Northern Ireland, John Larkin QC, claimed the Charity Tribunal reached flawed decisions

Attorney General John Larkin has won the right to appeal a tribunal’s decision to remove a senior civil servant from his role as a trustee of the Northern Ireland Disabled Police Officers Association.

Mr Larkin QC was granted leave at the High Court in Belfast on Wednesday to challenge the determination reached against Robert Crawford.

The Charity Tribunal decided to remove Mr Crawford from the association (DPOA) following a hearing last year.

In 2014 he was suspended from the DPOA along with chief executive Elaine Hampton and three other trustees pending the outcome of a Charity Commission investigation into its governance and financial controls.

All five of the association’s officers denied any wrong-doing.

At a hearing last year it was claimed that Mr Crawford, who sat on the audit committee, allowed a conflict of interests to develop over declarations to the inquiry about his relationship with Ms Hampton.

He maintained the issue was always managed appropriately.

The Attorney General applied for High Court permission to appeal Mr Crawford’s removal as a trustee after leave was refused by the tribunal.

He argued that it wrongly concluded the step was necessary and had offered no satisfactory reasoning.

Mr Larkin claimed it reached flawed conclusions on the basis of other trustees withdrawing their appeals.

He also contended that the tribunal offered no satisfactory reasoning or finding about what amounted to relevant misconduct or mismanagement.

Opposing the Attorney General’s intervention, the Charity Commission stressed he was not involved in the original tribunal hearing.

It also complained that some of the grounds of appeal were based on the facts rather than required points of law.

However, Mr Justice Horner ruled that leave should be granted on issues including the clarity of reasons given for the decision to remove Mr Crawford.

“I confess that some of the reasoning of the tribunal might be best described as opaque,” he said.

The judge added: “Appeals from the tribunal in Northern Ireland are very much in their infancy.

“This appeal raises various issues which may be of general importance in other appeals.

“It also raises issues as to how a decision should be recorded. In particular, the importance of setting out in an unambiguous fashion the findings of fact.”

The case will proceed to a full hearing later this year.