Trust established by Head Hunters fights for charity status

9:23 pm on 26 April 2017

A gang member's position on the board of a charitable trust helping rehabilitate prisoners biased the decision to deregister it, the High Court has been told.

Inside Paremoremo Prison

The That Was Then This Is Now Trust was formed with the ami, among others, of rehabilitating and reintegrating former prisoners. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

The That Was Then This Is Now Trust was formed late in 2001 with several objectives, including rehabilitating and reintegrating people being released from prison into the community.

It also aimed to provide social services to those at risk or in need and to enhance the physical fitness of those it helped.

Following an investigation in 2013, however, the Charities Registration Board was advised to deregister the trust in 2015.

The trust's lawyer, Cate Andersen, today told the High Court in Wellington that the Charities Registration Board had failed to observe the principles of natural justice, because it did not give the trust a chance to respond to material raised in the deregistration decision.

"They should [have] bundled the material off and sent it to the trust saying 'please comment'.

"The only time we got any of the information the board used as a basis of the decision was nine months after the appeal was filed."

Ms Andersen said the board had also shown bias relating to a gang member being on the trust's board.

Justice Faire said if a breach of the principles of natural justice, or an allegation of bias was proven, the matter could be referred back to the decision-maker to take another look at it.

"Correct me if I'm wrong, but your thrust is not that there was evidence before the board that they could go another way," he said.

"But rather, had [you] had the opportunity [you] would have put evidence before them that would have allowed them to go another way."

He asked Ms Andersen if it was possible to send the matter back for further consideration and she said, while that was possible, given the circumstances, it would not be appropriate to do so.

"Originally the allegations were wrongdoing. They were dropped in terms of deregistration.

"They said it was because the trust was not rehabilitating or reintegrating prisoners and it wasn't open to an appropriate portion of the public for reintegration of prisoners."

Charities Services' lawyer told the court its board would meet again on Friday morning and could consider the matters raised in court today then.

Justice Faire adjourned the case until midday on Friday.