Government guidance to the Law in England and Wales:
What the law says a charity is –
To be a charity, your organisation must satisfy the definition of a charity in the Charities Act.
The Charities Act says that a ‘charity’ is an institution which.
- Is established for charitable purposes only – see below (1) and
- Is subject to the control of the High Court’s charity law jurisdiction see further (2) below.
Purpose = what it is set up to achieve within its objects
Legal requirement: to be a charity it must have charitable purposes only. It cannot have some purposes that are charitable and some that are not.
- These must fall within the descriptions of purposes in the Charities Act, see below:
- To be for the public benefit = the ‘benefit aspect’ or the ‘public aspect’
- A purpose must be beneficial.
- Any detriment or harm that results from the purpose must not outweigh the benefit.
- To satisfy the public benefit the purpose must
- Benefit the public in general, or a sufficient section of the public,
- Not give rise to more than incidental personal benefit.
An organisation, to be a charity, must be subject to the High Courts’ charity law jurisdiction.
The governing legal document, setting out its charity’s purposes, and how it is administered, may be a trust deed, constitution, articles of association , will, conveyance, Royal Charter, scheme of the Charity Commission, or other formal document.
The High Court is the principal civil court of unlimited civil jurisdiction in England and Wales. It comprises three divisions: King’s Bench, Chancery, and the Family Division.
A charity’s objects are a statement of its purposes. Usually found in the ‘objects clause’ of a charity’s governing document. This normally means the same as its purposes. The legal requirement that the purposes be for the public benefit to be a charity. NB a purpose that is ‘political’ cannot be a charitable purpose.
There are 13 descriptions of purposes:
- a) the prevention or relief of poverty
- b) the advancement of education
- c) the advancement of religion
- d) the advancement of health or the saving of lives
- e) the advancement of citizenship or community development
- f) the advancement of the arts, culture, heritage, or science
- g) the advancement of amateur sport
- h) the advancement of human rights, conflict resolution or reconciliation or the promotion of religious or racial harmony or equality and diversity
- i) the advancement of environmental protection or improvement
- j) the relief of those in need, by reason of youth, age, ill-health, disability, financial hardship, or another disadvantage
- k) the advancement of animal welfare
- l) the promotion of the efficiency of the armed forces of the Crown, or of the efficiency of the police, fire and rescue or ambulance services
- m) any other purposes currently recognised as charitable, or which can be recognised as charitable by analogy to, or within the spirit of, purposes falling within a) to l), or any other purpose recognised as charitable under the law of England and Wales.
The High Court’s charity law jurisdiction
The governing document must adopt the law of England and Wales. Most of the trustees must live in England and Wales. Most of the organisation’s property is in England and Wales. The centre of administration must be in England and Wales. The Organisation must be independent of outside control and therefore subject to the control of the High Court.
Alan Shelley, registered Trustee of Sudbury Freemen’s Trust, 26 October 2012 – present day.