Guidance for charities on taking and defending legal action

Scales of JusticeThe Charity Commission has published guidance for trustees of charities on issuing and defending legal proceedings. It applies to all types of legal action that might involve a charity except for criminal cases and challenges to decisions by the commission.

The guidance provides an overview of the issues trustees should consider before entering litigation. It also provides pointers to help them meet their legal duties, including their duty to act in the best interests of the charity.

The topics the guidance covers include:

  • The circumstances that might cause a charity to take or defend legal action.
  • Alternatives to legal action.
  • The trustees’ decision-making process.
  • Managing the costs of litigation.
  • When the Charity Commission needs to be involved.
  • Charity proceedings and the role of the commission.

The types of legal action that might involve a charity include:

  • Employment issues.
  • Breach of contract.
  • Boundary disputes.
  • Regaining legal possession of a property.
  • Contesting a charity’s right to property under a will.
  • Litigation for personal injury or loss arising from actions of the charity or those of a third party causing harm to the charity.
  • Test cases to further or allow the charity’s work.
  • Claims over internal affairs, such as disputes concerning trustees or the control or misuse of a charity’s property or resources.

The commission has also published a checklist to assist trustees who are considering taking or defending legal action.

Legal advice for charities in East Sussex

Crucially, the commission’s guidance makes clear that charities should take legal advice before making a decision about starting or defending a legal action.

Gaby Hardwicke’s charity law solicitors act for a wide range of clients, from small local charitable trusts to national organisations operating via corporate vehicles. To find out about our services in this area visit our charities page.

Alternatively, please call us on 01323 435900.

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