Charity Tribunal decision awards the ‘Independent Press Regulation Trust’ charitable status

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A recent Charity Tribunal ruling has recognised that the promotion of high standards of ethical conduct and best practice in journalism and the editing and publication of news in print and other media, is charitable.

The case was brought to the First-tier Tribunal (Charity) by the trustees of the Independent Press Regulation Trust (the “IRPT”), a charitable trust established in 2013, whose objects are, ‘to promote for the public benefit high standards of ethical conduct and best practice in journalism and the editing and publication of news in the print and other media, having regard to the need to act within the law and to protect both the privacy of individuals and freedom of expression’.

The Charity Commission had previously refused to register the IRPT on the grounds that it was not established for exclusively charitable purposes.  The Commission argued that, ‘the particular purpose for which the IRPT is established is to promote the establishment of an independent press regulator which will be recognised as Leveson compliant under the Royal Charter’, but that, ‘as such a body is yet to be established and recognised, the purposes of the IRPT are considered to be too vague and uncertain for the Commission to conclude that the purposes for which the IRPT are established are exclusively charitable for the public benefit’.

The First-tier Tribunal (Charity) rejected this argument, ruling instead that the particular purpose of the IRPT is to promote high standards of ethical conduct and best practice in journalism and that this purpose is analogous to trusts whose purposes envisaged the ethical and moral improvement of the community, a head of charity recognised under the ‘old law’ (being the law relating to charities in England and Wales in force immediately before 1 April 2008) and therefore within the definition of charitable purposes under the Charities Act 2011.  They further concluded that that the IRPT is established for public benefit and therefore directed the registration of the IRPT.

The Tribunal’s decision is relevant for existing grant-making charities who may now, with more confidence, make grants under this head of charity.  The Tribunal’s ruling has established that the promotion of high standards of ethical conduct and best practice in journalism is charitable and a grant-making charity with general charitable purposes would therefore be able to make grants for this purpose.  Previously, any grants for particular projects in this area would need to have been made under a different head of charity.  The decision also opens the door to further charitable registrations under these purposes.

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