ICO enforcement action – key considerations for charities in the GDPR era
Our highly experienced and multi-disciplinary team of lawyers is well placed to assist charities and charitable bodies at a time of crisis and when faced with a range of issues requiring specialist legal advice.
There is an increased scrutiny of the charitable sector by regulators, public inquiries and the media, and we therefore recognise that crisis, risk and reputation management is now at the centre of operations for charities and charitable bodies.
We act for charities and charitable bodies in internal investigations into alleged wrongdoing and high profile public inquiries. We also assist with the Charity Commission interventions and media advice which go hand in hand. Our market leading criminal, public, regulatory, dispute resolution and media teams have expertise which uniquely straddles organised international criminal conduct, financial crime, serious sexual offences and safeguarding, data breaches, governance and policy failures, and essential media advice.
Our expertise includes:
We assist charities in dealing with fraud, financial crime and financial abuse. Our multi-disciplinary litigation team leaves us particularly well placed to assist charitable bodies in civil claims dealing with fraud, whether that be helping to put in place the necessary measures to ensure that the charity is best protected or dealing with the situation once potentially fraudulent activity has been identified.
Our data protection team comprises individuals from a wide range of practice areas including public law, regulatory, reputation management, dispute resolution, corporate and commercial and criminal litigation, with vast experience in advising charities and providing targeted, well-rounded and expert advice.
Our specialist team assists charities in complying with data protection law and meeting the expectations of the GDPR, with particular expertise in advising upon highly sensitive data and data belonging to children and vulnerable adults. They frequently assist in responding to subject access requests involving complex issues.
They can also support charities in the event of a data breach. The financial and reputational damage caused by a data breach can have devastating consequences for charities. Our cross practice team are uniquely placed to advise charities and assist from the moment that a breach is first identified to the conclusion of the legal processes which may follow.
Our team can assist in securing public information sought by your charity under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, including where exemptions may be relied upon.
Our lawyers act for a number of charities on internal investigations, serious incidents as well as statutory inquiries opened by the Charity Commission to investigate matters of concern.
We have significant experience of acting for charities in connection with public scrutiny over, sexual abuse and misconduct scandals, safeguarding, data breaches, as well as financial and procedural impropriety.
The team is experienced in dealing with cases at an early stage (often avoiding statutory investigation) as well as during full blown investigations, including cases involving the appointment of an interim manager by the Charity Commission, or more complex cases involving criminal investigation, statutory public inquiries, or connected litigation.
We are highly experienced in evidence gathering and analysis, with particular expertise in the more challenging aspects of investigation, and ensuring compliance with the GDPR.
Our advisory work also includes advice on serious incident reporting, referral to other statutory authorities where misconduct or wrong-doing is suspected, as well as advising on internal governance, for example, transparent and robust incident reporting mechanisms.
The team is well equipped to help charities navigate greater scrutiny of the charitable sector by the Charity Commission following the introduction of the Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Act 2016.
We specialise in contested legacy work. We understand the importance of legacies as a key source of income for charities and are experts in dealing with any claim against an estate involving charity beneficiaries. Such disputes might include a challenge to the validity of a Will, a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 or a Will construction or proprietary estoppel claim. We can also assist with breach of trust matters, court applications by trustees of charitable bodies seeking advice or directions and professional negligence claims.
Our reputation management and media team are well positioned to assist charities through a time of crisis. The team are available at all times and on an emergency basis. We regularly advise charities on all aspects of reputation management and media law, including protecting charities who have had sensitive information published in the media or elsewhere and providing reputation management advice to charities who may face serious allegations. We also have expertise in providing reputation management advice to charities who are the subject of an investigation by the Charity Commission.
Our team is experienced in assisting charities in respect of Home Office investigations, including sponsor license suspensions, breaches of illegal working and failure to carry out right to work checks. We undertake audits of current systems and providing reports and recommendations. We can also manage the whole process - from liaising with the Home Office to minimising disruption and ensuring matters are processed as smoothly as possible to prevent penalties being issued to the charity and to establish appropriate compliance processes to prevent further breaches.
We help charities bring private prosecutions when the public investigation and enforcement agencies are unable or unwilling to act. For charities to conduct private prosecutions successfully it is vital that they can act with consistency, fairness and balance. Our experts help charities to do this by advising on whether it is in their beneficiaries’ interest to commence a private prosecution, and if so, we help then to navigate the complex criminal justice system whilst ensuring at all times that their reputation is protected. At the conclusion of a private prosecution, we help our clients to recover the legal costs they have incurred in bringing their offender to justice.
Ensuring that organisations operate safely and responsibly is at the heart of safeguarding. It also involves being prepared to respond quickly and effectively should problems arise.
We are able to advise and provide training to religious organisations, charities, schools, and governing bodies in safeguarding. We have significant experience in acting for religious organisations and charities in connection with public scrutiny over sexual abuse and safeguarding as well as representing these organisations in public inquiries such as the Independent Investigation into Child Sexual Abuse, and in connection with Charity Commission investigations.
Our team is able to help an organisation understand its safeguarding obligations and develop a culture that protects children and vulnerable adults. Our areas of expertise include:
The team advises on serious incident reporting, referral to other statutory authorities where misconduct or wrong-doing is suspected, as well as advising on internal governance, for example, transparent and robust incident reporting mechanisms, including in the context of internal investigations and charity commission statutory inquiries.
For charities and charitable bodies, dealing with any of these complex circumstances can prove very stressful and bring about potentially irreparable results if not dealt with swiftly. Seeking specialist advice from lawyers experienced in dealing with these type of situations, and risk and crisis management work, can make a significant difference to the outcome.
In addition to advising charities and charitable bodies in times of crisis we provide a comprehensive client service to vulnerable people who are sometimes the focus of a charity’s activities. Through various networks and direct client work we deal with the victims of sexual abuse and those who have sustained the sometimes life altering consequences of personal injury or medical negligence.
If you have any questions or require advice concerning litigation and crisis management for charities, please contact a member of our team in confidence.
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