In accordance with the Charities Act, an individual is currently prevented from acting as a charity trustee if they have an unspent conviction for an offence of dishonesty or deception. However, the Charity Commission have sought to extend the scope of automatic disqualification to include convictions for theft, fraud, terrorist offences, perjury, money laundering and misconduct in public office. You may be surprised to know that it [Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Act 2016] affects not just trustees but also senior managers or staff with “control over money” will also be disqualified if they have a conviction relating to any of the specified offences.
All those affected will either have to resign from their positions or to apply to the Charity Commission for a waiver, which will be considered on a case by case basis. If they fail to do so, and they are discovered to be subject to the automatic disqualification rules while in post, the charity will have to dismiss them and notify the police and the Commission.
This legislation will have a major impact on the Charity sector. Anyone with these convictions may be a good employee offering useful skills and/or experience to the charity but they must be dismissed.
We await guidance from the Charity Commission but meanwhile charities seeking to recruit new trustees should make sure they:
- check the Commission’s list of removed trustees before any appointments, and
- ask any new trustee to sign the Commission’s Declaration of Eligibility and Responsibility to confirm they are able to act.
It would also be prudent to make appropriate enquiries of any new senior managers before appointment. Charities should start checking their position regarding existing trustees and senior management, as well.