Atlantic Bridge information request

Jon Trickett made this Freedom of Information request to Charity Commission for England and Wales

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was partially successful.

Dear Charity Commission for England and Wales,

It is still unclear how the Atlantic Bridge organisation was funded, so I am writing to ask if you could fully publish all those donors who funded the organisation between February 2010 to September 2011, when the organisation was finally wound-up.
I would also like to request the documentation relating to the tax returns of Atlantic Bridge and the residual accounts after the organisation closed.

Finally, will the Commission disclose all papers submitted to the Charity Commission for England and Wales for its Regulatory Case Report on The Atlantic Bridge Education and research Scheme and any correspondence between the Atlantic Bridge and the Charity Commission during the period of investigation.

Yours faithfully,

Jon Trickett

Enquiries, Charity Commission for England and Wales

Your e-mail will now be assessed. If we feel that the issues do not fall
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send us a paper version unless we have specifically requested this.

Very often the fastest way to answer your enquiries will be to look at the
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Becky Bbear left an annotation ()

John - The details of individual donors to any charity are not collected or collated by the Charity Commission.

Unless those details appear in the published accounts of a charity, that information would only be held by the charity itself. The charity would be under no legal obligation to release that information unless it chose to, or was ordered to do so by a Court.

Information on the charity's tax returns would only be held by HM Revenue & Customs, or by the charity itself.

You would have to contact HMRC to request whatever information they still held on returns made by Atlantic Bridge - the Charity Commission wouldn't hold any such information.

A request via the Whatdotheyknow website has already been made to the Charity Commission asking for the release of information on its Report on the charity. The information released is available on the WDTK website and is therefore already in the Public Domain.

Because of that, the second part of your request is likely to be refused, because the information requested is already publicly available.

Those accounts the charity submitted to the Commission were available on the charity's page on the Charity Commission website. After the charity was removed those accounts were no longer available on the site, but may still be held by the Charity Commission.

Since the charity was removed following its submission of an 'online' dissolution declaration (which does not require the submission of 'final' accounts) it is unlikely that the Charity Commission would hold a copy of any final accounts. Removal came after the completion of the Charity Commission Report, so those final accounts would not have existed at the time the report was published.

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 only requires the release of recorded information held by an authority, it doesn't require the authority to gather new or additional information. Because of this it's unlikely the Charity Commission has ever asked for, or even seen, the final accounts for the removed charity.

The only way you could obtain a copy would be to ask the charity itself for a copy - they would be obliged to supply these under section 172 of the Charities Act 2011, within two months of receiving a written request from any member of the public. Charities are able to make a reasonable charge for supplying a copy.

Section 172 only requires the supply of a charty's most recent accounts, but it would certainly apply to final accounts, because they would by definition be the most recent.

Charities are only required to keep their financial records for a period of six years, after which they can be destroyed. Since this charity has been removed and ceased to exist, its records/papers will be in storage somewhere - so it may be difficult to find out who to contact to request a copy of the final accounts.

The Charity Commission may have details of who is storing the charity's papers, so you may like to add that to your request - otherwise you would just have to try the last contact details given on the Charity Commission website.

Hope this information helps a little while waiting for the Commission to get back to you.

Becky

Becky Bbear left an annotation ()

Jon - Sorry for getting your name wrong, typo, I was focusing on the subject matter and only noticed my mistake after posting.

Becky

Jon Trickett left an annotation ()

Further to my earlier letter, I wanted to add some additional reasons as to why the information requested relating to Atlantic Bridge should be published, which is because there is a public interest argument to be made.

It has been reported recently in the media that Atlantic Bridge had to repay £50,000 in unpaid tax by HMRC, however, the Charity Commission had found that the trustees had not acted in bad faith. However, it is unclear how the Charity Commission determines if trustees are culpable or not.

Having spoken to a number of trustees from other charities and a legal representative who regularly advises trustees, it is clear that many trustees do not fully understand the boundaries of culpability and clarity is urgently needed.

Also, the Charity Commission concluded in its supplementary report on Atlantic Bridge that “any reconsideration of the recovery of funds would need to be supported by new evidence”. Since HMRC recovered £50,000 in unpaid tax from Atlantic Bridge new evidence must have been found.

It is in the public interest to publish the full details of the whole case relating to Atlantic Bridge.

Becky Bbear left an annotation ()

Jon - Recovery of unpaid tax is the responsibilty of HMRC, because they are the Regulator for all tax related issues.

If HMRC recovered funds from Atlantic Bridge then the Commission would have nothing to do, because the other Regulator had already taken the action it determined necessary. There would be no additional penalties the Commission could impose - in the first case because it had no powers relating to tax matters and in the second case because the charity had subsequently ceased to exist.

If HMRC determined that any prosecutable offence had been committed, it would be HMRC that decided whether or not to bring the matter before a Court rather than accept a repayment.

No argument there is a public interest element, but whether there is any actual public benefit in the Commission pursuing a matter already resolved by another Regulator is open to question - what would be gained that hasn't already been gained?

It's important to remember that the Commission is a Civil Regulator, it has no powers of proscution itself - and where offences under the Charities Act occur it has to refer these to another Agency or Authority, it's then up the them to decide if a prosecution should be brought.

Still, it will be interesting to see what response the Commission provides on this point.

Not sure if you already know this but where a charity that is not structured as Company finds itself with debts/liabilities it can't meet from its own funds, those debts/liabilities have to be met by the trustees from their own funds - subject to this being ordered by the Court.

This liability is collective, spread equally between all of a charity's trustees for debts/liabilities arising during ther term of office. One reason why keeping accurate minutes of trustee decisions is important - and ensuring that no one trustee is allowed to become 'dominant' and make decisions or enter into agreements without the approval/authority of a majority of the others.

Trustees who disagree with particular decisions/actions should always make sure their vote against is recorded in the minutes - to cover themselves against being considered liable if things go wrong.

Trustees can take out Indemnity Insurance to provide some cover against this risk, but can only claim against that insurance if they successfuly defend a claim made against them.

Trustee Indemnity Insurance only covers situations where a claim against a charity fails. Apart from this, it really serves no purpose other than giving trustees some limited 'peace of mind'.

Becky

Dear Enquiries,

Further to my earlier letter, I wanted to add some additional reasons as to why the information requested relating to Atlantic Bridge should be published, which is because there is a public interest argument to be made.

It has been reported recently in the media that Atlantic Bridge had to repay £50,000 in unpaid tax by HMRC, however, the Charity Commission had found that the trustees had not acted in bad faith. However, it is unclear how the Charity Commission determines if trustees are culpable or not.

Having spoken to a number of trustees from other charities and a legal representative who regularly advises trustees, it is clear that many trustees do not fully understand the boundaries of culpability and clarity is urgently needed.

Also, the Charity Commission concluded in its supplementary report on Atlantic Bridge that “any reconsideration of the recovery of funds would need to be supported by new evidence”. Since HMRC recovered £50,000 in unpaid tax from Atlantic Bridge new evidence must have been found.

It is in the public interest to publish the full details of the whole case relating to Atlantic Bridge.

Yours sincerely,

Jon Trickett

Enquiries, Charity Commission for England and Wales

Your e-mail will now be assessed. If we feel that the issues do not fall
within our regulatory remit you may not receive a response from us.
However, if the issues raised fall within our regulatory remit we will aim
to respond to you within fifteen working days from receipt. Please do not
send us a paper version unless we have specifically requested this.

Very often the fastest way to answer your enquiries will be to look at the
frequent questions and guidance on our website
[1]www.charitycommission.gov.uk. You can also view the Welsh version of
our website by clicking on 'Cymraeg' in the top right-hand corner of our
home page.

Are you following us on Twitter? Get short, timely messages from Charity
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Fe geith eich e-bost eu hasesu. Os rydym yn teimlo bod y materion ddim yn
disgyn o fewn ein hawdurdod rheoli efallai ni chewch ateb gennym. Er
hynny, os yw’r mater o fewn ein hawdurdod rheoli rydym yn anelu at roi
ateb i chwi o fewn pymtheg diwrnod gwaith o’i dderbyn. Peidiwch ag anfon
fersiwn bapur oni bai ein bod yn gofyn amdano os gwelwch yn dda.

Yn aml y ffordd gyflymach i ateb eich cwestiynau yw drwy edrych ar ein
gwefan [3]www.charitycommission.gov.uk. Gallwch hefyd weld fersiwn Gymraeg
o'n gwefan gan glicio 'Cymraeg' sydd wedi ei leoli i'r dde ar frig y
dudalen cartref.

A ydych yn ein dilyn ar Twitter? Cewch negeseuon amserol a byr gan y
Comisiwn Elusennau. Mae Twitter yn ffynhonnell o wybodaeth sy'n diweddaru
ar unwaith. Mae'n hawdd i gadw eich hun yn ddiweddar gyda amrywiaeth eang
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Ystyriwch yr amgylchedd. Peidiwch â printio'r e-bost yma oni bai fod gwir
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Dear Enquiries,

Can you confirm in cases were legal proceedings may be considered that the Charity Commission has to seek the consent of the Attorney General to undertake such action.

Would the Charity Commission confirm whether or not they approached the Attorney General in relation to Atlantic Bridge.

Yours sincerely,

Jon Trickett

Enquiries, Charity Commission for England and Wales

Your e-mail will now be assessed. If we feel that the issues do not fall
within our regulatory remit you may not receive a response from us.
However, if the issues raised fall within our regulatory remit we will aim
to respond to you within fifteen working days from receipt. Please do not
send us a paper version unless we have specifically requested this.

Very often the fastest way to answer your enquiries will be to look at the
frequent questions and guidance on our website
[1]www.charitycommission.gov.uk. You can also view the Welsh version of
our website by clicking on 'Cymraeg' in the top right-hand corner of our
home page.

Are you following us on Twitter? Get short, timely messages from Charity
Commission. Twitter is a rich source of instantly updated information.
It's easy to stay updated on an incredibly wide  variety of topics. Go to
<[2]http://twitter.com/chtycommission> and sign up.

Consider the environment. Please don't print this e-mail unless you really
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Fe geith eich e-bost eu hasesu. Os rydym yn teimlo bod y materion ddim yn
disgyn o fewn ein hawdurdod rheoli efallai ni chewch ateb gennym. Er
hynny, os yw’r mater o fewn ein hawdurdod rheoli rydym yn anelu at roi
ateb i chwi o fewn pymtheg diwrnod gwaith o’i dderbyn. Peidiwch ag anfon
fersiwn bapur oni bai ein bod yn gofyn amdano os gwelwch yn dda.

Yn aml y ffordd gyflymach i ateb eich cwestiynau yw drwy edrych ar ein
gwefan [3]www.charitycommission.gov.uk. Gallwch hefyd weld fersiwn Gymraeg
o'n gwefan gan glicio 'Cymraeg' sydd wedi ei leoli i'r dde ar frig y
dudalen cartref.

A ydych yn ein dilyn ar Twitter? Cewch negeseuon amserol a byr gan y
Comisiwn Elusennau. Mae Twitter yn ffynhonnell o wybodaeth sy'n diweddaru
ar unwaith. Mae'n hawdd i gadw eich hun yn ddiweddar gyda amrywiaeth eang
o bynciau. Ewch i <[4]http://twitter.com/chtycommission> i gofrestru.

Ystyriwch yr amgylchedd. Peidiwch â printio'r e-bost yma oni bai fod gwir
ei hangen os gwelwch yn dda.

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Becky Bbear left an annotation ()

Jon - The Charities Act 2011 provides that where an offence is committed under that that Act any prosecution would be brought by the Attorney General.

In such cases, the Commission would submit a file to the AG's Office. It would then be up to the Attorney General to decide if a prosecution should be brought and if so to bring it himself (well more like have one of his staff solicitors bring it).

The Commission would have no other part in the matter, except where any of its Officers were called to give evidence. The case would be tried exactly like any other in the High Court.

The 2011 Act also contains a provision under which anyone bringing certain types of legal action against a charity has to first obtain the consent of the Commission to do so.

These provisions are a little complex, so probably best to read them yourself. The full text of the 2011 Act is available on the legislation.gov website, just type Charities Act 2011 into the search engine.

This should give you a rough idea of how the legislation is structured and the limits on the powers it grants to the Commission.

Afraid I can't help with the answer to your last question, you'll have to wait for the Commission response to find out if they made any referral to the AG's Office.

My guess would be no - if they had I'm pretty sure word would have leaked out and the press would have been all over the story.

Becky

Tim Hopkins , Charity Commission for England and Wales

1 Attachment

  • Attachment

    20121002 Letter to Mr Trickett re Atlantic Bridge Education and Research Scheme.pdf

    15.4M Download View as HTML

Dear Mr Trickett,

Thank you for your emails regarding the Atlantic Bridge Education and
Research Scheme. Please find attached me response.

Kind regards,

Tim

Tim Hopkins

Investigations and Enforcement

Charity Commission

<<20121002 Letter to Mr Trickett re Atlantic Bridge Education and Research
Scheme.pdf>>

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Rashidah Conroy, Charity Commission for England and Wales

[ Protect ]
 
Dear Mr Trickett
 
I am the Legal Adviser assigned on behalf of the Commission to conduct a
review of the Commission's response to your Freedom of Information
request.
 
I am writing to inform you that whilst I will endeavour to respond to your
request by 25 January 2013, in light of the substantial additional
information that you have requested this may not be possible. In order to
address the additional issues that you have raised as comprehensively as
possible, I propose that my response reaches you by 4 February 2013 at the
latest.
 
I will of course try and fulfil the original target date for the review as
best as I can in the meantime.
 
Kind Regards
 
Rashidah Conroy
 
Legal Adviser
 
On track to meet your filing deadline? Charities have ten months from
their financial year end to file their Annual Return and Accounts. Find
out more at [1]www.charitycommission.gov.uk. Remember to file on time and
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Kait White, Charity Commission for England and Wales

Dear Mr Trickett

 

The Commission has almost completed its review of the decision not to
provide you with all of the information you requested under the Freedom of
Information Act. We hope to send the final decision to you later today.
There are a number of documents which we need to send to you in hard copy
and so I would be grateful if you could confirm the postal address to
which you would like these sent.

 

Kind regards

 

Kait White

 

Charity Commission

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Dear Kait White,

Thank you for your update. If you could send it to:

Jon Trickett
House of Commons
London
SW1A 0AA

Yours sincerely,

Jon Trickett

Kait White, Charity Commission for England and Wales

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Trickett

 

Please find attached the outcome of our FOI decision review.

 

As discussed, a copy is also being sent to you in the post along with
copies of the relevant information.

 

Kind regards

 

Kait White

 

Charity Commission

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Louise Platt, Charity Commission for England and Wales

3 Attachments

Dear Mr Trickett,

 

Please see the attached letter and information.

 

Kind regards,

 

Louise Platt

Legal Services Division

Charity Commission

*   Mail:   [1][email address]

 

 

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