The Tribunal was asked to decide whether certain benevolent funds established for the relief or prevention of poverty continue to meet the 'public benefit test' and remain 'charitable' following the introduction of the Charities Act 2006. The Tribunal comprehensively confirmed that they did and that the test for public benefit had not changed.
Judgment was handed down by the Tribunal following a Reference made by the Attorney-General. The decision will come as a relief to charities which were potentially affected. Had the decision been otherwise these charities could have been deemed to be no longer charitable.
Russell-Cooke represented the Association of Charitable Organisations (ACO) and 22 of its members, some of which were also a party to the Reference. The ACO and those members formed a steering group which funded common representation by Russell-Cooke and a leading barrister. This innovative approach minimised legal costs while ensuring that the positions of the charities involved were fully considered.
In accepting the arguments made on behalf of the ACO and its members, the Tribunal highlighted the ACO's "helpful submission" which it said "made some perceptive points about the terms of the Reference" and "provided us with a valuable overview". The Tribunal indicated that the ACO and its members gave the Tribunal a "comprehensive picture" and "made helpful submissions about the law".
Russell-Cooke Senior Partner John Gould said:
"The approach we adopted enabled each charity to have its voice heard without the expense of separate legal representation and the Tribunal's express approval of the input we had was very pleasing. The joint efforts of our Charity and Public Law and Regulatory teams were extremely effective and the result is a great success."
Dominic Fox, Chief Executive of the ACO commented:
"This is a great result for the sector and I am delighted with both the outcome and the manner in which it was achieved. Those members who joined with us to respond to the Reference are equally delighted."