Government response

Charity Commission defends its investigation into Jehovah's Witness charity in the Court of Appeal

Trustees have asked the Court of Appeal to permit their legal challenge to the statutory inquiry that was opened by the commission in 2014.

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Following decisions against them at the Charity Tribunal and High Court, the trustees of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Britain (the leading Jehovah’s Witness charity in the UK) have asked the Court of Appeal to permit their legal challenge to the statutory inquiry into their activities that was opened by the commission in 2014. No decision was reached today.

The commission is investigating how Watch Tower safeguards children and adults at risk. It has been seeking access to the registered charity’s records since 2014. Watch Tower disputes the legal basis of the commission’s inquiry and its order seeking documents from the charity. Today’s hearing forms part of its longstanding litigation against the commission. The commission has argued that the Charity Tribunal is the appropriate venue for such cases. It has warned that if the Court rules otherwise, it may risk excluding less well-funded charities from accessing justice via the less costly Tribunal.

The commission is committed to robustly investigating allegations that charities do not have adequate safeguarding policies and practices. It continues to defend its statutory inquiry into Watch Tower. It encourages people who have been affected by safeguarding in congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses in England and Wales to make contact with the inquiry lead investigator Jonathan Sanders at jonathan.sanders@charitycommission.gsi.gov.uk

Members of the public can contact the commission with any safeguarding or other concerns about charities via Complain about a charity.

Published 10 February 2016