Attorney general wins appeal against police charity ruling

Attorney general John Larkin lodged the appeal against a Charity Tribunal ruling
Attorney general John Larkin lodged the appeal against a Charity Tribunal ruling

The Attorney General has won his appeal against a tribunal’s decision to uphold the removal of a senior civil servant from his role as a trustee of the Northern Ireland Disabled Police Officers’ Association.

John Larkin QC told a High Court judge on Thursday that the relevant authority is no longer standing over the determination reached against Robert Crawford.

He said: “Your Lordship is invited to make an order that the appeal should be allowed on the grounds of insufficiency of reasons.”

Mr Crawford’s case will now be remitted to a newly constituted tribunal for a fresh hearing.

In 2014 he was suspended from the Association (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.

Mr Larkin became involved in the case after The Charity Tribunal upheld the decision to remove Mr Crawford from the DPOA.

He applied for High Court permission to appeal, arguing that the tribunal 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.

The Charity Commission had opposed the attorney general’s intervention, stressing that 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.

The case was due to go for a full hearing on issues including the clarity of reasons given for the decision to remove Mr Crawford.

However, Mr Larkin told the court: “The commission doesn’t seek to stand over the judgment of the tribunal.”

Praising the parties for reaching a resolution, Mr Justice Horner indicated that the case could still come back to him following the fresh tribunal hearing.