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The First-Tier Tribunal (Charity) has given judgment in favour of the Human Dignity Trust ("HDT") in this case concerning the charitable purpose of advancing human rights.

HDT was established to support people whose human rights are violated by the criminalisation of private, adult, consensual homosexual conduct ('relevant conduct') including by assisting them and their lawyers to bring and defend legal cases (a) in domestic courts and tribunals of a state, in relation to rights justiciable under the domestic law of that state and/or (b) against a state before international courts and tribunals, the jurisdiction of which has been accepted by the state against which a remedy is sought.

The Charity Commission had refused to register HDT as a charity on the ground, inter alia, that its purposes were 'political' (within the doctrine in McGovern v AG) in that, in the Commission's view, HDT sought to change the law of foreign states having laws purporting to criminalise relevant conduct.

The First-Tier Tribunal has allowed HDT's appeal against this decision, holding that:

  • HDT was concerned with the promotion of human rights by establishing whether particular laws were valid through a process of constitutional interpretation - this process fell entirely outside the categories of activity held to be political (and thus not charitable) in McGovern;
  • those categories should not be extended to include it, because a process of constitutional litigation did not offend the separation of powers in a constitutional (as opposed to Parliamentary) democracy;
  • HDT was engaged in upholding the law, not changing it; and
  • HDT's purposes were for the public benefit, because the purported criminalisation of relevant conduct represented a serious breach of international human rights norms.  There was a public benefit in seeking to interpret, clarify and protect superior constitutional rights.

The full judgment can be read here:

Michael Beloff QC and Emma Dixon appeared for HDT.