New Laws on Charities to Hit Terror Gangs

New proposals to tighten up the regulation of Northern Ireland’s charities and stop paramilitaries and criminal gangs ripping off the public will be revealed by the government today. The draft legislation, which is to be put out for consultation today by the Department for Social Development, is expected to include the establishment of a Charity Commission for Northern Ireland and a province-wide Register of Charities, making charitable organisations more accountable and transparent. It is thought that the proposals will make it tougher for bogus charities to operate, while also offering greater support to legitimate charitable bodies.

Currently in Northern Ireland there is no requirement for charities to register and there is no regulating body, unlike in England and Scotland.

Earlier this month the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee Organised Crime report highlighted allegations that paramilitary groups illicitly used funds raised for charitable purposes and used charities to divert money obtained from criminal activities.

The report also stated claims that criminals had sought to exploit charities, including sham charities that had been set up to avoid Stamp Duty and a charity that had been set up to receive large gifts of shares, attracting tax relief for the donor.

The proposals are also believed to contain arrangements to control public collections through a system of licences and permits which anybody wanting to collect money or goods would have to obtain.

The consultation period is expected to run for 12 weeks.

The Department for Social Development will then seek to present their proposed legislation to parliament in late autumn.

The legislation should be in place by late spring of 2007.