Charity Commission obtains ruling that former trustees of charity subject to statutory inquiry in contempt of court

The Charity Commission has announced that it has succeeded in obtaining a ruling from the High Court against two former trustees of a charity for contempt of court.

The Commission opened a statutory inquiry into the Darren Wright Foundation in November 2017 because of serious concerns about its governance and administration. The two former trustees, Susan and Raymond Wright, were required to provide the Commission with information, but they failed to do so. 

This resulted in an application by the Commission to the High Court, and the ruling was given on the grounds that the two former trustees failed to comply with an order from the Commission to supply evidence and documentation to the regulator, which amounted to contempt of court.

The guidance on statutory enquiries published by the Commission has long stated in section 5.3:

When the Commission issues an order or direction, you or anyone else named within it, must carry out its requirements. Failure to do so may in itself be regarded as misconduct and/or mismanagement in the administration of a charity and can result in the Commission taking further regulatory action. Failure to comply can also have serious legal consequences, as set out in the following section…

Where the Commission uses its temporary or permanent protective powers, in some circumstances non-compliance may amount to a criminal offence or contempt of court.”

This is, however, the first time that the Commission has pursued a contempt of court finding in the High Court. The penalty for the two former trustees is expected to be determined at a further hearing.

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