Meeting other legal requirements

Meeting other legal requirements

Charity trustees need to make sure that their charity complies with the law of England and Wales as well as local requirements where they are working. They also need to be able to manage the risk of links to terrorist activity. This section provides some guidance and links to other useful information. It also outlines the Commission's approach when there are allegations of abuse.

Why are local laws and customs important?

Local laws and customs may be very different to those in the UK, and very complex. It is important to understand them to pursue the charity's objectives effectively. There may be conflicts of interest and loyalty for personnel working for the charity which the charity needs to anticipate and manage. For further information see What should my charity think about when choosing projects and beneficiaries?

The Charity Commission's International Programme website www.ngoregnet.org provides further information.

I am concerned that my charity's activities might be against the local laws. What do you advise?

If there is a risk that an activity which the trustees are planning will be subject to local legal challenge the trustees should:

  • assess the extent of the risk that they would be running and the extent to which that risk could be removed or reduced
  • use their knowledge of local conditions and of the needs of beneficiaries to consider what course of action would be in the best interests of the charity
  • take appropriate legal and other advice
  • balance the benefits of carrying out that activity against the dangers and disadvantages of doing so - these include the potential human, financial and reputational cost

What issues do we need to think about related to bribery?

The Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 sets out measures to combat international corruption. The measures outlaw acts of bribery by UK nationals and companies abroad in the same circumstances as they are outlawed here. They amend the existing law to:

  • put beyond doubt that the law of bribery applies to acts involving foreign office holders. This includes Ministers, MPs and judges; and
  • give jurisdiction to the English Courts over crimes of bribery committed by UK nationals and UK companies here and overseas.

The Bribery Act 2010, which came in to force in July 2011, updates the legal position.

Please refer to the toolkit Protecting Charities from Harm.

How can trustees make sure their charity is not linked to terrorism?

Please refer to the toolkit Charities and Terrorism.

How does the Charity Commission deal with allegations of misuse of charitable funds or criminality in other countries?

We are a civil regulator and our remit does not extend to investigating criminal matters. Where there is evidence or reasonable grounds to believe that criminality has taken place we refer this to the police to consider a criminal investigation. We work closely with other regulators, law enforcement and other agencies here and overseas to detect and prevent abuse occurring in charities. We expect charities to report to the local police if criminal offence or suspected criminal offence occurs overseas just as they would do if it occurs in the UK.

We want to make sure that trustees manage their charity properly and responsibly. Sometimes people raise issues about criminal matters in a charity, or other regulators examine concerns about the operation of a charity. Where this happens we consider whether the concerns indicate misconduct or mismanagement in the administration of the charity and whether we need to protect charity property. We may consider opening our own inquiry at the same time as another agency or regulator has an open inquiry.

For more information about our compliance work, read How we ensure charities comply with their legal obligations

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