Letter: Charity trustees and the law

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The Independent Online
Sir: In "Scandal of the parents' leaders" (5 June) Lucy Ward states that "under charity law, it is illegal to benefit financially from a trusteeship". That is a general rule of law subject to a well-known exception. If the constitution of a charity expressly permits payment of trustees, this overrides the general rule. The Charity Commission will accept such a charity for registration if the terms of the remuneration clause limit the remuneration to a reasonable sum for services undertaken by a trustee.

If there is no remuneration clause in the constitution of the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations, the former trustees should justify the unlawful payments. If the Charity Commissioners are satisfied that they acted in good faith and beyond the call of duty, such that no reasonable person would have acted without payment, the Charity Commissioners may, depending upon the circumstances, decide to take no further action. Ultimately, the decision as to whether or not the payments were reasonable probably lies with any new trustees who took no part in the decision to pay the former trustees. Failing this, the paid trustees may apply to the court on the basis that the payments were reasonable and justifiable.

MOIRA PROTANI

Solicitor, Charities Group

SJ Berwin & Co

London WC1

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