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The Upper Tribunal has dismissed an attempt by a Jehovah’s Witnesses charity to stop an investigation by the Charity Commission.

In 2014, the Commission decided to open a statutory inquiry into the Manchester New Moston Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, a registered charity. The inquiry is to investigate the charity’s handling of a convicted sex offender and former trustee of the charity, who was allowed to question his victims as part of a disciplinary process. 

The charity applied for a review of the Commission’s decision by the First-tier Tribunal (“FTT”). The FTT is required to apply the principles which would be applied by the High Court on an application for judicial review. The FTT held that none of the charity’s grounds of challenge had been established and dismissed the application.  

The charity appealed to the Upper Tribunal (“UT”) against one aspect of the FTT’s substantive decision, concerning an allegation that the Commission had directly discriminated against the charity contrary to Article 14 ECHR, and two of its earlier case management decisions, concerning the appropriate scope of disclosure and cross-examination.

The UT dismissed each of the appeals. The FTT had been entitled to conclude: (1) that there had been no direct discrimination; (2) that certain material that had been withheld by the Commission was not relevant and did not need to be disclosed; and (3) that the cross-examination that was not permitted by the FTT did not relate to disputes of fact which warranted cross-examination.

The full judgment is available here

Iain Steele acted for the Charity Commission.

Iain also acted for the Commission in successfully resisting an attempt by another Jehovah’s Witnesses charity to stop a related investigation. See R (Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Britain) v Charity Commission [2016] EWCA Civ 154, judgment here

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