The Charity Commission has been successful in its first attempt to seek a contempt of court ruling. It took the action against two former trustees of a disability charity who failed to submit evidence to the regulator.
According to the commission, in an online announcement posted yesterday, the High Court found that Susan and Raymond Wright, former trustees of the Darren Wright Foundation, based in Bristol, failed to comply with an order to supply evidence and documents to the regulator.
The regulator said: 'The commission continues to investigate the charity over serious concerns about its management and governance. The commission stresses that its statutory inquiry into the Darren Wright Foundation is ongoing, and that it has made no findings yet. Another hearing is expected to determine the penalty against the two defendants.'
The charity has powers to require individuals to provide information. This is the first time the regulator has gone to the High Court to pursue a contempt of court finding.
According to the commission's latest annual report, it carries out 'quasi-judicial' functions, regulating against the common law and statutory obligations which govern them.
The report says: 'We adopt a rigorous approach in the exercise of our powers, act fairly and proportionately and give reasons for our decisions. Where the law is dated, unclear or imprecise, we approach the cases in a way we think the courts would. The common law is developed by the courts in the light of changing social and economic conditions and values, and we recognise this in our decisions. The exercise of many of our legal powers can be appealed to the First-tier Tribunal and as a public authority our decisions are subject to judicial review in the High Court.'
In 2018/19, the commission says it was involved in litigation in cases brought against its decisions, in pro-active attempts to secure money that might be otherwise lost to charities, and to ask the court for directions to resolve complex or contentious issues.