Withdrawal from EU justice programmes could see British charities lose millions, ministers warned

The money has been used to improve the rights of children and victims, fight domestic violence and rehabilitate offenders

British charities and organisations risk losing millions in funding for victim support, child protection, research and human rights because of the Government's planned withdrawal from European Union justice and home affairs programmes, it emerged last night.

Plans to withdraw from an EU regulation which oversees the grants to charities will have a major impact on their work, ministers have been warned.

One of the organisations, Fair Trials International, has told the Government that it may have to relocate to another country because of the threatened impact on funding. The organisation, which has received £1.09m in EU funding under the justice programme since 2010, said its work offering assistance to people facing criminal charges abroad would be severely limited, because the money amounts to a third of its total funding.

A new EU regulation covering 2014 to 2020 will combine three streams of Brussels funding for organisations, charities and universities whose work covers justice and home affairs – including Victim Support, Fair Trials International, Beatbullying, the Fatherhood Institute, the British Refugee Council, the British Association for Adoption and Fostering and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (Rospa). The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) has received money for cross-EU cooperation into fingerprint research.

If the UK does not opt into this regulation by next year, all British-based charities and organisations will become ineligible for the grants. Last year, UK organisations eligible for the justice funding received 19 per cent of their total income this way.

Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, announced last year that, as part of the UK's much-heralded opt-out from EU justice and home affairs – which delighted many Conservative MPs – the Government would not opt back into the regulation on justice funding. When the justice programme was agreed in Brussels earlier this month, Britain's position did not change, and it is understood that, despite intensive lobbying of Mr Grayling, there will be no U-turn.

Simon Hughes, who became the new Justice Minister under Mr Grayling last week, will be under pressure from the Lib Dem side to persuade the Government to change its position.

Campaigners fear that the genuine work of good causes will be severely curtailed by the Government's refusal to opt into the regulation on the basis that the EU opt-out has become merely a totem to burnish David Cameron's Eurosceptic credentials.

Much of the funding is channelled through a grant-making EU scheme named Daphne, which aims to protect "children, young people and women against all forms of violence and attain a high level of health protection, well-being and social cohesion".

The money has been used to fund research programmes, improving the rights of children and victims, fighting domestic violence, rehabilitation of offenders and gender equality. Beatbullying received nearly £1m in Daphne funding last year. The British Association for Adoption and Fostering received £365,000 to develop "alternatives into custody for young offenders" and remand fostering programmes. Rospa, through its relationship with the European Child Safety Alliance, received £340,000, while the Fatherhood Institute received £334,000 to support families. Leeds Metropolitan University received £210,000 for research to address sexual bullying across Europe, and the British Refugee Council was given £135,000 to give legal assistance to unaccompanied refugee children.

Jago Russell, the chief executive of Fair Trials International, wrote to the then justice minister Lord McNally earlier this year warning that the funding "maximised the security of the UK" through its help for Acpo, protecting British liberties through helping Britons facing trial abroad, and "preserved the integrity of the UK's criminal justice system".

Mr Russell added: "Withdrawing from this funding stream could, in particular, have significant implications for Fair Trials International.... If the UK does not opt into the regulation, this funding would cease to be available from 2014 unless Fair Trials International relocates to another country."

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "The justice programme was adopted in December after a lengthy discussion in the European Parliament.... Although the UK decided not to opt in at the start of negotiations, it still has the opportunity to consider whether to opt in at a later date."

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