Jehovah’s Witnesses, and judicial review being a last resort

Moston-Kingdom-Hall-20140725101407111R (o.t.a WATCH TOWER BIBLE & TRACT SOCIETY OF BRITAIN) v CHARITY COMMISSION, 12 December 2014, Dove J, no transcript yet available, summary on Lawtel (£)

Judicial review is an excellent and flexible remedy, filling the gaps when statutory and other appeals do not provide a remedy for unlawful administrative acts or omissions.

But there is a flip side, well exemplified by this extempore decision refusing permission for a judicial review – save in exceptional  circumstances, you can only seek judicial review when there is no other available remedy. 

In this case, Dove J decided that the Court had no jurisdiction to seek judicial review of  the Charity Commission’s decision to launch an inquiry and make a production order concerning the Jehovah’s Witnesses charity because the Charities Act 2011 provided for appropriate statutory remedies that the charity should pursue first.

The summary gives only the shortest account of the underlying facts, but it appears as if there are two particular congregations of concern being investigated by the Charity Commission.

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Upper Tribunal confirms illegality of Catholic Charity’s ban on same-sex couple adoption

Catholic Care (Diocese of Leeds) v Charity Commission (on appeal to the Upper Tribunal) CA/2010/0007  – read judgment

A private adoption agency could not justify its exclusion of same-sex prospective parents by arguing that this policy would keep open a source of funding that would otherwise dry up and reduce the number of adoption placements.

This was an appeal by the Catholic adoption services agency against the First Tribunal’s confirmation of the decision by the Charity Commission that it was not permitted to amend its constitution so as to permit it to continue its previous practice to refuse to offer its adoption services to same sex couples. Here is our post on the FTT’s ruling, which sets out the facts and arguments in the case. To recap briefly, the charity argued that the adoption of its proposed objects was justified under the general prohibition on discrimination under Article 14 ECHR (and its statutory analogy, Section 193 of the Equality Act).  The legitimate aim it pursued was that of providing suitable adoptive parents for a significant number of children who would otherwise go unprovided for. The Charity maintained that unless it were permitted to discriminate as proposed, it would no longer be able to raise the voluntary income from its supporters on which it relied to run the adoption service, and it would therefore have to close its adoption service permanently on financial grounds. The FTT rejected this submission, holding that though the charity’s aim of increasing adoption placements was a legitimate one, the evidence before it did not show that the increased funding of the agency’s adoption work under the auspices of the Roman Catholic church would “inevitably” lead to the prospect of an increased number of adoptions. Continue reading