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Decision review: FAQs

Below you will find answers to our frequently asked questions on decision reviews.

If you click on a question in the list below, you will be brought to the answer for that question. Alternatively, you can scroll down to read all of the questions and answers.


Answers

Q. What is decision review?

Decision review is a service offered by the Commission which will allow people who have received a decision from us, or who are affected by a decision we have given, to ask us to look at our decision again to make sure it is correct.  

Q. What decisions can be reviewed by the Commission?

We will accept applications for a decision review if the section of the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2008 we have used to make the decision is also one which can be appealed to the Charity Tribunal. Schedule 3 to the Act lists those sections where the decision can be appealed to the Tribunal. If you can appeal the decision to the Charity Tribunal, you can apply to us for a review of our decision.

Q. Who can apply for a decision review?

We will accept applications for a decision review from the same group of people who can appeal our decisions to the Charity Tribunal. The list of who can appeal to the Charity Tribunal can be found in Schedule 3 to the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2008. People who can appeal include charity trustees, or anyone who is affected by the decision. If you can appeal to the Charity Tribunal, you can apply to us for a review of our decision. 

Q. Who is an ‘affected person'?

The Charity Tribunal has defined an ‘affected person’ as someone who has a materially greater interest in the decision than an ordinary member of the public. We will ask you to tell us about your relationship to the charity in the decision review application form.

We will be flexible in accepting an application for a review if you explain to us the reason why you are affected by the decision. We will consider the facts of each case with the objective of ensuring that a just review is carried out into the particular situation.

For example, in a case involving a name change, another charity may object on the grounds that the new name is too similar to theirs.

Another example would be where church authorities argue that they are affected by the Commission’s decision to remove a trustee from a church charity. They may feel bound to take further action against the trustee on the basis of our decision, such as removing that person from membership of internal church committees.  

We would encourage you to refer to our guidance Challenging a decision of the Commission, which is available on our website.

Q. What happens when a decision review is requested?

When we receive a request for decision review, we will:

  • decide whether the decision is one we can review under our policy and then whether you are an affected person
  • check the application form to ensure that you have given us enough information to allow us to carry out a full appraisal of all the evidence in our file
  • endeavour to allocate a different officer than the one who made the original decision to look at all the papers again.

That officer will then decide if the evidence supports the original decision, or whether the decision needs to be changed.

Q.  Can I withdraw my application?

Yes, you can withdraw your application at any time up to the point where we give our reviewed decision. We will also treat your application as withdrawn if we write to ask you for more information to help us to decide the case and you do not reply within the required timeframe.

Q. What happens if I want to withdraw my application but you have already reached your decision?

The reviewed decision will be final and you have the option of appealing to the Charity Tribunal if you remain unhappy with what we have decided.

Q. How long do I have to ask for a decision review?

We will accept an application for a decision review received within 42 calendar days of the day we send you our original decision.

Q. What if my application is late?

If your application is late, we will write to ask you why you delayed making your application. If we find there is good reason for the delay, we will accept the application. A good reason may be where you had to call a meeting of trustees to decide what to do and it took some time for everyone to be available.

Q. How do the time limits for applying for a decision review affect my right to appeal to the Charity Tribunal?

You also have 42 calendar days from the day we send you our original decision to appeal to the Charity Tribunal. This would mean that you may need to apply to the Tribunal at the same time as you make your application to us for a review. This means you will not be late in lodging your appeal.

We intend to have all reviews completed before the 42 day time limit to appeal to the Tribunal expires, to allow you time to appeal our first decision to the Tribunal. Remember that our revised decision is also one which you can appeal to the Tribunal, and you will have a further 42 calendar days to do so.

Q. Do you have an application form for decision review?

The application form can be found on our website here.

Q. How much information will I have to provide to the Commission?

The application form will ask you to tell us what decision we have given which you would like us to review. If you can, you should tell us what section of the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2008 we used to give the decision. You should give us a reasoned argument outlining why you believe the decision should be changed. We may ask you to send us more information once we consider your application.

Q. My case was complicated and I am sure that the original decision is wrong. How can I be sure that it will be considered in the correct way this time?

All decisions are made by officers with the appropriate expertise but if you feel that there are any flaws we will consider the decision again.

Q. Who is responsible for making the reviewed decision?

We would like to ensure that all of our decisions are correct. We will endeavour to ask a different officer to the one who made the first decision to look at the facts of the case, the evidence, and any new evidence you provide, to ensure that everything is reconsidered by someone who is not familiar with your case. 

Q. How much will it cost?

The Commission does not charge for processing a decision review.

Q. Is there legislation which states that the Commission must carry out a decision review?

There is no legislation compelling the Commission to carry out decision reviews. We have taken a policy decision to assist charities in this manner. However, we do use the same legislative criteria as making an appeal to the Charity Tribunal to decide who can apply for a decision review, and what types of decisions we will review.

Q. If I request a decision review does the Commission have to review its decision?

While the law does not oblige us to carry out decision reviews, we will review most decisions where we receive an application for a review, provided they are appealable matters before the Charity Tribunal. The exception will be where our decision was made by the Charity Commissioners. We usually ask an officer of a higher level to carry out a decision review. As the Commissioners are the most senior representatives in the Commission, we will not be able to internally review their decisions. If this is the case, we will write to you to let you know that we cannot carry out a decision review. We will advise you about your rights to appeal to the Charity Tribunal.

Q. What if I disagree with the decision reached by the Commission after review?

Should you be dissatisfied with any decision reached by the Commission after decision review, you may appeal to the Charity Tribunal. The original decision letter you receive from us will advise you how to appeal to the Tribunal. You have 42 days to lodge the appeal from the day that we send our original decision. When we write to you with our final decision after the decision review we will remind you of your appeal rights. We do not review cases which would not be heard by the Charity Tribunal.

Q. What happens after the Commission gives its reviewed decision?

We will inform you by letter of the outcome of your application for decision review. The previous decision may be upheld or alternatively overturned in whole or in part. You have the option of appealing to the Charity Tribunal within 42 calendar days from the original decision if you do not believe the outcome of the decision review to be correct.

Q. Can all of your decisions be reviewed?

If the decision is one which can be appealed to the Charity Tribunal as set out in Schedule 3 to the Act we will look at the decision again. There are some decisions we give which can only be appealed to a higher court. For example, if we make a cy-près scheme and you are not happy with that, you can appeal the decision to the Court of Appeal. In that case we would not carry out a decision review.

Q. If a decision is not reviewable under the Act can I challenge the decision in some other way?

The Commission will not review decisions which are not appealable to the Charity Tribunal under the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2008. If this is the situation you face, we suggest you seek independent legal advice.

Q. Where can I go to find further information?

Our guidance on decision Review, Challenging a decision of the Commission, is on our website and/or you can contact us.