Sensible Sentencing Group Trust registration as a charity

16th April 2015

Media Release

The independent Charities Registration Board has registered the Sensible Sentencing Group Trust (SSGT) as a charity. 

The General Manager of Charities Services, which supports the independent Board’s processes, Lesa Kalapu, has provided the following context for its decision, to assist other organisations that may be considering applying for registration:

“The changed approach, which has enabled the registration of the Sensible Sentencing Group Trust reflects a change in the rules and activities of the SSGT, not a change in charities law or the way it is applied.

“The SSGT no longer has political aims that prevent its registration as a charity.

“It submitted a new application with amended rules and information about its activities, which was assessed on its own merits, and resulted in registration as a charity. Another entity called “The Sensible Sentencing Trust”, has non-charitable political advocacy aims that mean it is still ineligible to be registered as a charity.

“Registration of the SSGT does not signal any change in the law, or the way in which the law is applied by the Board or those acting on delegated authority from the Board.  Every application for registration is assessed on its own merits, applying current law.

“Charities Services monitors charities to be sure that they remain charitable and are not engaged in fulfilling or funding non-charitable political aims, contrary to their own rules and the law”.

FAQs

Where can I find The Sensible Sentencing Group Trust’s registration details?

  • You can see the SSGT’s application record, rules, officers, contact details and other information on its page on the public Charities Register, at Search the Register
  • Its unique registration number is CC51549.

Why has The Sensible Sentencing Group Trust now been registered as a charity, when it was previously declined by the Charities Commission?

  • The SSGT was declined registration in 2010 by the former Charities Commission because its main aims were political.
  • The SSGT has since changed its stated aims and activities, and is now a very different organisation.
  • The SSGT made a new application, and submitted amended rules and new information about its activities which were assessed and determined to be charitable.
  • The SSGT gives practical and emotional support to victims of crime, provides education to victims and the public, and assists with an annual homicide victims conference. It is important to note that it no longer has political aims.
  • The independent Charities Registration Board considers that the SSGT now meets the requirements to be a registered charity.

Is the change in approach in response to the Greenpeace decision?

  • The change in approach reflects the changed rules and activities of the SSGT, not a change in the law.
  • The Supreme Court decided in its Greenpeace decision that there is no longer a blanket prohibition on political causes being charitable. However, political causes must also benefit the public in a charitable way. The end to the cause, and the means and manner of achieving the cause, must all be charitable, which means political advocacy will usually not qualify for registration.
  • The decision to register the SSGT has not been affected by the recent Greenpeace decision. 
  • The SSGT no longer has political aims. The SSGT gives practical support to victims of crime, provides education to victims and the public, and assists with an annual homicide victims’ conference.

Is there any difference between The Sensible Sentencing Group Trust and the Sensible Sentencing Trust?

  • Yes. The SSGT and SST are separate organisations with very different aims. 
  • The SSGT’s focus is on providing practical support to victims of crime, assisting with an annual homicide victims conference, and providing education to victims about their rights.
  • The Sensible Sentencing Trust was created to advocate for changes in the law about sentencing and criminal (penal) policy. It is not a registered charity.

Will this decision open the door for other political organisations that want to change sentencing and criminal laws?

  • No. 
  • Although the Greenpeace decision removed the prohibition on political advocacy being charitable, a political advocacy purpose must benefit the public in a charitable way. The end to the cause, and the means and manner of achieving the cause, must all be charitable, which means political advocacy will usually not qualify as charitable.
  • The decision to register the Sensible Sentencing Group Trust has not been affected by the Greenpeace decision.

How can Charities Services be sure that the SSGT won’t engage in political activities in the future?

  • The Charities Act 2005 requires all charities registered with Charities Services to file annual returns that provide information about their activities and finances. Annual returns are published on the Charities Register, where they can be viewed by members of the public. The annual return process provides on-going accountability that supports public trust and confidence that charities are only carrying out their charitable aims. 
  • Charities Services has a monitoring role to ensure that registered charities continue to qualify for registration. If Charities Services becomes aware that an organisation no longer qualifies for registration, or does not operate in accordance with its rules or charities law, it may be removed from the Register.