Farhad Rezafard and Others (Plaintiffs) v Francis Runacres and Another

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtQueen's Bench Division (Administrative Court)
JudgeMR. JUSTICE FERRIS
Judgment Date04 Nov 1998
Judgment citation (vLex)[1998] EWHC J1104-5
Docket NumberCH. 1998-R-5795

[1998] EWHC J1104-5

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE

CHANCERY DIVISION

Royal Courts of Justice

Before:

Mr. Justice Ferris

CH. 1998-R-5795

Between:
Farhad Rezafard & Ors.
Plaintiffs
and
Francis Runacres & Anor.
Defendants

MRS. F. QUINT (instructed by Messrs. Paisner & Co.) appeared on behalf of the Plaintiffs.

MR. M. HERBERT Q.C. and MR. H. LEGGE (instructed by Messrs. S.J. Berwin & Co.) appeared on behalf of the First Defendant.

MR. W. HENDERSON (instructed by the Treasury Solicitor) appeared on behalf of the Second Defendant.

MR. G. NEWEY (instructed by the Legal Department) appeared on behalf of the Charity Commissioners.

1

(As approved by the Judge)

MR. JUSTICE FERRIS
2

The four plaintiffs in this action are the trustees of a charity named "Iran Aid", which was formed in 1983 for the purpose of providing relief (to put the matter generally) to persons of Iranian origin, whether in this country, in Iran or elsewhere, who were considered to be suffering the consequences of persecution and breach of human rights. The charity has over the years, it seems, collected and dispensed a very considerable sum of money.

3

In July this year concerns were voiced, amongst other places, to the Charity Commissioners about the way in which the charity was being administered and in particular, as

4

I understand it, about whether the funds of the charity were indeed being used for proper charitable objects. The Charity Commissioners were sufficiently concerned about the matter to intervene. On 23rd July of this year they exercised a power given to them by s.18 of the Charities Act 1993 by appointing Mr. Francis Runacres, a senior manager in the firm of Price Waterhouse Coopers, to be the receiver and manager of the charity in accordance with the provisions of the Act.

5

In particular, Mr. Runacres was required to administer and manage the affairs of the charity and its property, and in this connection he was given all the powers and duties of charity trustees to the exclusion of the charity trustees.

6

He was charged with certain particular responsibilities set out in the schedule to the Charity Commissioners' order. These included the responsibility to take over the administration of the charity and its property and to take

7

any steps immediately necessary to secure the assets of the charity; the duty to carry out an initial evaluation of the charity's state of affairs, including an initial assessment of the property owned by the charity; and the duty to report to the Charity Commissioners in writing. That was to be done within two weeks. He was given further duties which were to be performed over a longer period. No challenge to that order of the Charity Commissioners has been mounted and the time within which a challenge could be made under the terms of the Charities Act 1993 expired three months after the making of the order on 23rd October of this year.

8

The receiver in an affidavit not yet sworn (but the draft of which, as I understand it, has been approved by him and in respect of which an undertaking that the affidavit will be sworn has been given) says that in the course of his duties he has experienced certain difficulties in doing what he is charged with doing. As a result of these difficulties on 27th October this year he gave notice to the plaintiffs (the displaced trustees of the charity) that he intended the next day to remove the records of the charity from, the office of the charity where they have hitherto been kept, to his own premises.

9

The trustees, who have continued to take a close interest in the affairs of the charity and have in many respects assisted the receiver (although it seems they have not always done what he wanted to be done) were very concerned about this proposal. On 27th October they applied ex parte to Neuberger J. for an order restraining the receiver from carrying out his intention. Neuberger J., in order to hold the position, granted an injunction as asked over a very short period until 5.00 p.m. on Friday, 30th October.

10

Before Neuberger J.'s order expired the plaintiffs served a notice of motion for today and the receiver gave an undertaking to the same effect as Neuberger J.'s order, that undertaking to last until after the hearing of this motion today. The plaintiffs now apply in these proceedings for an injunction restraining the receiver from removing from the offices of the charity or disclosing to any third party any

11

of the records of the charity which identify the names or addresses of the beneficiaries or volunteers of the charity. This order is sought against the receiver, who is the first defendant in the proceedings, but I have also heard counsel

12

on behalf of the Attorney-General (who, as is usual in charity matters, has been joined as a defendant so that he may discharge his duty of protecting the interests of charity generally) . I have also heard Mr. Newey, who has appeared for the Charity Commissioners (who, although they are not parties to the action, have an interest in the matter) .

13

The basis of the plaintiffs' claim is that the records of the charity relating to beneficiaries and volunteers and intermediaries of the charity contain a lot of sensitive information relating to the identity of those persons and the channels by which aid has been passed to persons in Iran. What they fear is that if the receiver is free to deal with these records as he wishes this highly sensitive information will come into a wide range of hands from whom it is at present withheld and that directly or indirectly it will be passed to those who are opposed to the work of the charity, or who are involved with a regime in Iran which is said still to be oppressive to large numbers of people and to involve widespread abuse of human rights.

14

It is not necessary for me to express any view about these matters on the part of the court. I am content to assume, as indeed the receiver through his counsel has indicated that he accepts, that the records in question do contain a lot of highly sensitive information which could, if it gets into the wrong hands, be used to harm persons who...

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