Reactions to our High Court victory: a win for civil society

2018-03-21T17:10:21+00:00 October 26th, 2015|Articles, Charity, Civil Sanctions|
CAGE’s settlement with the Charity Commission in the High Court last week has been lauded as a victory for civil society and a positive development for Muslims. We summarise the reaction.

 

CAGE’s win in the High Court last week meant the Charity Commission could not dictate to charities to cease funding a given cause. The development was welcomed by leaders in the charity sector and from our many supporters.

 

Here’s a quick glance at the amount of grassroots support through retweets that CAGE received throughout the duration of the review in comparison to the Charity Commission, who received almost none. We send a heartfelt thanks to our supporters.

 

Background

When the Charity Commission pressured two charities not to fund CAGE again in July, we were facing yet another challenge to our work. We appealed for a judicial review of the Commission, arguing that it had overstepped its powers as a regulator. The review was granted.

 

This week, with the support of the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust (JCRT) represented as an interested party, CAGE met the Charity Commission in the High Court, where Lord Chief Justice Thomas pronounced that the Commission had been ‘high-handed’, and that the regulator had no power to permanently ban a charity from funding a given cause. [1]

 

Below is the order that was drafted in agreement between all parties at the High Court:

 

Charity sector breathes a sigh of relief

 

Leaders in the charity sector and commentators in the media lauded our settlement as a win for civil society and a relief for the whole sector.

 

Third Sector: Stephen Cook: A defeat for the Charity Commission in all but name 
But it was a defeat for the commission in all but name. Cage calls it a “climbdown”, which is not a bad word for it.”
“… This court case was not about Cage – what it is and is not, and what it does or does not do. It was about the law. But Cage commissioned, and this week published, an independent inquiry into the press conference that sparked this whole affair. The inquiry is critical of the way Cage presented its information and the language that was used, and makes recommendations for the future. Whatever you think of Cage, this was a sensible thing to do. Would it be too much to expect the commission to do something similar?”
Read more here.
Third Sector: Outcome of Cage affair ‘should give lawmakers pause for thought’, says Ben Jackson of Bond
At a time when the Charity Commission is seeking yet more powers from parliament, this outcome should give lawmakers strong pause for thought… As they consider new legislation in the coming period, MPs now need to ensure that any new proposed powers are really justified and proportionate, and that the proper checks and balances are in place to ensure the Charity Commission is accountable, objective and transparent in exercising its powers.” – Ben Jackson, chief executive of Bond
Read more here.
ACEVO: Charity leaders’ welcome CAGE settlement securing trustees’ rights
For the Charity Commission to have assumed as general principle it had omnipotence over the future was quite extraordinary. It over-reached itself and now needs to reflect. This case was critical for the protection of the rights of charities to exercise their proper judgement now and in the future. It means charities may continue to operate without fearfully looking over their shoulder to see if they are crossing a line arbitrarily drawn by the commission….
For the commission to bewail the costs involved with this case is ungracious. It could have revised its position at any time before the implementation and during prosecution of proceedings. It chose not to. That is why the money was spent. No regulator can assume a doctrine of papal infallibility and must be subject to challenge when it gets things wrong.” – Stephen Bubb, chief executive AVECO
Read more here.

Ekklesia: Cage versus the Charity Commission

“…. yesterday’s decision is a welcome relief. I hope that, as Ben Jackson of the umbrella group BOND suggests, legislators take note, and do not try to further restrict charitable powers in future. Otherwise, it won’t just be Muslim organisations looking over their shoulders being careful what they say, it will be all of us.” – Virginia Moffatt, Chief Operating Officer of Ekklesia
Read more here.

 

Civil Society: Judicial review dropped after Commission backs down over Cage funding
The Commission position was questioned by some charity sector leaders, who said the Commission had gone beyond its powers, and said the judgment created questions about the Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Bill currently making its way through Parliament, which will add to the regulator’s powers.
Read more here.

 

Third Sector: A firm line from Lord Thomas
“… an extra paragraph was added to the statement saying “the commission recognises that it has no power to require trustees to fetter the future exercise of their fiduciary duties under its general power to give advice and guidance. In consequence, there is no obligation on the trustees of JRCT to fetter the proper and lawful exercise of their discretion in future.”
On the basis of that, all parties agreed that the judicial review would be withdrawn and the judges were spared the task of reaching a conclusion on whether the commission had in fact attempted to do what the statement says it cannot do.
Read more here.

 

Media coverage outlines victory for CAGE

 

Although mainstream news covered the result of the review as a compromise, reading between the lines showed a victory for CAGE.

 

BBC News: Cage reaches compromise in funding case
The case was settled after a day-long hearing with all sides agreeing that Joseph Rowntree’s trustees “must be free to exercise their powers and duties in the light of circumstances existing at the time”.
And the commission stated it was not seeking to fetter the charity’s discretion to fund Cage “for all time regardless of changing circumstances“.
Read more here.

 

The Guardian: Charity Commission fights claim it unlawfully choked off lobby group’s funds
Cage argues that the commission overstepped its powers in acting the way it did, arguing the regulator has “no powers” to make requests of charities to stop payments ever to any group on the basis that there might be “reputational damage” to the charitable sector “due to public reaction”.
Read more here.

 

5Pillars: Charity Commission forced to back down over CAGE funding
The case was settled after a day-long hearing with all sides agreeing that Joseph Rowntree’s trustees “must be free to exercise their powers and duties in the light of circumstances existing at the time.”
And the Commission stated it was not seeking to fetter the charity’s discretion to fund CAGE “for all time regardless of changing circumstances.”
Read more here.

 

Islam21C.com: CAGE wins landmark legal battle for UK charities
Yesterday the advocacy group CAGE won a landmark legal battle against the Charity Commission. This case has been welcomed by the charity sector to ensure their freedom from interference from the commission based on unlawful, ideological reasons.
Read more here.

 

CAGE: CAGE court victory exposes Charity Commission’s torture links
Following the recent court settlement in favour of CAGE, Outreach Director Moazzam Begg discusses the case and how it has revealed the shocking influence of those who support Guantanamo and torture within the Charity Commission.
Read more here.

 

Charity Commission statement on Judicial Review 
Before the Judicial review:
The commission secured assurances that the charities were not funding CAGE and in the current circumstances had no future intention of doing so. 
Read more here.

 

And after the Judicial review:
We welcome CAGE’s decision to withdraw their application for judicial review.
It has always been clear that trustees have the right to exercise their discretion when acting exclusively in the best interests of their charity and within the objects and powers, subject to the appropriate supervision by the commission as the charity regulator.
Read more here.

 

Messages from CAGE supporters celebrate victory

 

We have also received messages from our supporters, who were overjoyed at seeing us win over what has increasingly come to be seen as an oppressive government body.

 

Dear friends,
I am very pleased to see the High Court decision today … I very much hope that your voice can continue to be heard in challenging those in power willing to limit their own application of the rule of law and promotion of human rights, whilst advocating that everybody else should abide by these high standards.” – Anonymous

 

Alhamdulillah. Watching the CC counsel getting ripped by the judge, #priceless
The evidence was so clear … the Judge was seeking to find a way out to decide against the Commission. It seemed therefore that the Judge … exerted so much pressure on the Commission, where they were bombarded into to submission into doing a deal with the parties so as to avoid a negative finding, [which] would have put the judge into [the] difficult position [of] making that decision … [But] perhaps the most important point to note here is this. There were a number of Muslim charities who the commission had also put pressure on in the same way as [they had] Joseph Rowntree [but they] refused to play any part in the case. Had they done so, the claim would certainly have been strengthened against the Commission. Muslims need to realise that we are all in [this] together and our greatest weapon and strength is our unity.” – Anonymous

 

[I] have just read the report in today’s paper…very brave, very imaginative, very important, very, very well done. All best, Gareth [Pierce]

 

From FB and Twitter:

 

Congratulations, it must have taken a lot not just to take this matter to court but to do an independent review of your own actions relating to the Emwazi case. Surely this shows that CAGE rather than a ‘jihadi front’ is an accountable British institution that absolutely promotes British values.” – Michael Wozencroft-Reay, commentator

 

Alhamdulillah, this is absolutely fantastic news, not just for Cage but for the sector as a whole!” – Sara Kasmani, Al Maghrib-UK

 

Well done guys on taking this fight on. Massive victory. Sends a powerful message to the Islamophobia Industry. God bless you.” – Raza Nadim, MPACUK

 

Doesn’t this just prove that all of this was merely a smear campaign against a charity which was dedicated to defending the right of Muslims! They did not want muslims to have any defence.” – Aylah Amarchih, commentator

 

And more commentators:

 

From Andy Ricketts, deputy editor of Third Sector:

 

From Simon Hooper, journalist at Al Jazeera English:

 

From Kate Sayer, charity advisor and auditor, Sayer Vincent:

 

From Civil Exchange, a think tank for government and voluntary sector, and Charity Audit, an employee in charity and NFP audit sector:

 

 

Alex Delmar-Morgan is a journalist for the Wall Street Journal:

 

“A HUGE slap in the face for @HJS_Org backed extremists at @ChtyCommission & in the UK Govt.” – Jammy Dodger, commentator‏

 

“Well done @UK_CAGE for accounting the @ChtyCommission for their neo-con driven political agenda. Surely it’s time for Shawcross to walk?!” – GhulamEspositoHaydar, commentator

 

“Congratulations @UK_CAGE in battle v Charity Commission.According to court reports CAGE won, not how Charity Commission are reporting though” – Virginia Moffatt, Ekklesia

 

“Credit to @jrf_uk for working with @UK_CAGE to defeat @ChtyCommission Will go down as a first in legal history. Today history has been made” – Raz Ahmed, commentator

 

“Well done @UK_CAGE for standing up for rights as always and I did say there was no need to apologise to anybody lol!” – Carol Anne Grayson, blogger.

 

(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)