Last week, Tane pointed out that the private prison industry had been involved in corrupting the political process in the US by funding ‘tough on crime’ groups that call for longer sentences (and bigger profits for private prisons). He wondered if the same could be happening here with the Sensible Sentencing Trust. This provoked a press release from Sensible Sentencing which frothed and threatened but did not deny that they receive money from GEO or other private prison companies looking to set up shop in New Zealand. You can’t help but think a nerve was hit.
In that press release, Garth McVicar exclaimed SST is a “registered charitable trust” and its website calls it a “charitable trust” but no-one can find them on the charities commission register. Here, mickysavage picks up the case:
I checked the incorporated societies website and came up with an application for registration of the trust under the Charitable Trusts Act 1957 and a trust deed. A certificate of incorporation exists and can be downloaded from the Societies website. There is nothing unusual here. The Charitable Trusts Act 1957 was the predecessor to the Charities Act 2005 and entities registered under the old Act do not have to be registered under the new Act.
However, section 37(1) of the Charities Act states clearly that ‘[a] person must not use a style or title including the words ‘registered charitable entity’. A ‘charitable entity’ is defined as including ‘ the trustees of a trust that is or are registered as a charitable entity under this Act’. It appears that this only includes entities under the new Act.
If an entity under the old Act did not wish to register under the new Act it did not have to. But it is clear that the aim of the new legislation was to achieve transparency around the receipt of donations and my reading of the section is that if a 1957 Act entity did not reregister then it could no longer advertise itself as being ‘charitable’. It could still exist, but not hold itself out to the public as being a charity.
If this is correct then the SST may have committed an offence. Section 38 states that ‘[e]very person who acts in contravention of section 37(1) commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding $30,000’.
The SST has a significant say in the local law and order debate. Presumably if someone wanted the SST to comply with the Charities Disclosure law all they needed to do was to write to the Charities Commission and provide them with proof. If this happened then an investigation would be warranted.
Could this be strike one? If so should we lock the SST up and throw away the key?
[lprent: Fixed up the link to the press release, and put in the quote from it. Eddie – please link to relevant pages.]