Charity trustee disqualification
How someone can be banned ('disqualified') or removed as a charity trustee and how to check this on the register of removed trustees.
People who can’t be trustees
You must be at least 18 years old to be a charity trustee (16 if your charity is a company or charitable incorporated organisation (CIO)).
Some people are disqualified by law from acting as charity trustees. Subject to waiver provisions (see below) this includes anyone who:
- has an unspent conviction for an offence involving dishonesty or deception
- is currently declared bankrupt (or is subject to bankruptcy restrictions or an interim order) or has an individual voluntary arrangement (IVA) with creditors
- is disqualified from being a company director
- has previously been removed as a trustee by either the Charity Commission or the High Court due to misconduct or mismanagement
- is disqualified from being a trustee by an order of the Charity Commission under section 181A of the Charities Act 2011
It is normally an offence to act as a trustee while disqualified unless the commission has given a waiver. Special provisions apply to charitable companies. Find out more about disqualifications and waivers of disqualification in the commission’s staff guidance.
The Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Act 2016 added new sections to the Charities Act 2011, one of which gives the commission a discretionary power to make a disqualification order where the 3 statutory criteria, set out in section 181 (A) of the 2011 Act, are met. A disqualification order will state whether the person is disqualified in relation to all charities, specified charities or a class of charities. The period of disqualification depends on the seriousness of the case and can be for a maximum of 15 years.
The effect of being disqualified is that the person is prevented from being or acting as a charity trustee, or a trustee for a charity, in relation to those charities specified in the disqualification order. While a person is disqualified they will also be disqualified from holding positions with senior management functions (whether paid or unpaid) within the charity or charities concerned, unless the commission includes an exception in the disqualification order that this is not the case.
You can find more information about the power in:
Explanatory statement: The discretionary disqualification power (PDF, 239KB, 16 pages)
Questions and answers: The discretionary disqualification power (PDF, 209KB, 11 pages)
How to check if a prospective trustee is disqualified
Step 1: search the register of removed trustees
The register of removed trustees provides details of anyone who has been removed as a trustee by the High Court or the commission. It does not provide details of those who are disqualified for other reasons (for example, criminal convictions or insolvency).
For each disqualified person, the register holds:
- their name
- their address at the time of removal
- the date the order was made
- the name of the charity concerned
A person’s details remain on the register until the commission entirely lifts the disqualification. This means a person remains on the register even if a disqualification is partially lifted, for example, allowing them to be a trustee under certain conditions.
Step 2: ask prospective trustee to sign a declaration of eligibility
Get prospective trustees to confirm that they are not disqualified from being a trustee. The easiest way to do this is to ask them to complete a declaration of eligibility form to confirm they:
- are willing and eligible to act as trustees
- understand the charity’s purposes
- have passed any checks required if the charity works with children or vulnerable people