Summary report by independent Counsel published
Introduction to the summary report
Nicole Lappin, Chief Charity Commissioner
In February 2021, the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland appointed an independent Counsel to conduct a review of complaints arising from the Commission's regulation of the charities, Lough Neagh Rescue Ltd and Disabled Police Officers' Association of Northern Ireland (DPOANI). The review was intended to establish whether there were lessons which could be learned from the handling of the cases, which had not yet been learned.
Independent Counsel has now completed that review and produced a full report. A summary of that report is published below, providing an overview of the review and its recommendations.
As the charity regulator, Commissioners understand we may have to take actions under our investigatory remit which will be unpopular. However, it is clear from the review, and previous communications, that some individuals feel extremely hurt and aggrieved by the actions taken in these particular investigatory cases.
As Chief Commissioner, I am very sorry to hear of the impact the inquiries had on the individuals involved and I am grateful for the time and openness they have demonstrated in speaking to independent Counsel. I am aware this process has been an emotional one for many of those involved, and their candour is appreciated.
I can also assure them, and other charities who may feel wary of the Commission, that their voices have been heard, that Commissioners and staff care greatly about their experiences and in learning for the future.
Lough Neagh Rescue Ltd (LNR) was subject to a statutory inquiry by the charity regulator between May 2013 and January 2015, with an unrelated inquiry opened into the Disabled Police Officers' Association of Northern Ireland (DPOANI) between February 2014 and March 2016. The cases were amongst the first undertaken by the charity regulator and each case brought with it complex and unforeseen issues.
While the Commission acted with the best intentions in both inquiries, following the procedures approved by Commissioners at that time, the Commission takes the allegations and issues raised in the review extremely seriously. Not only have a number of our processes already been reviewed and improved since that time, but we are committed to learning the lessons from each case and in improving for the future.
To that end, the Commission has commenced work on an action plan detailing how and where the recommendations will be addressed. This is published below, demonstrating publicly how we plan to address the issues raised and implement the recommendations.
As I have highlighted above, the Commission is dedicated to a process of continuing development and independent reviews such as this play a vital role in supporting public bodies in listening to stakeholders and in learning from the past so we do not repeat the same errors.
I would like to thank our independent Counsel and his support team for their work in this review, which has included undertaking interviews and reviewing submissions from 16 individuals. I would also like to thank those who participated in the review process, for both their frankness and their time. I know this has not always been an easy process but I hope we can look to their future with a more positive outlook.