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After witness evidence was concluded in September 2022, this week we heard legal arguments from lawyers representing Mermaids, LGBA and the Charity Commission.
We’ve been back in court this week for the final stage of the hearing of Mermaids versus the Charity Commission regarding the charity status of LGB Alliance (LGBA).
Monday began with submissions from Michael Gibbon KC representing Mermaids. He submitted that LGBA is, in the words of its founder Bev Jackson, ‘an organisation to challenge the dominance of those promoting the damaging theory of gender identity’, i.e. that its main purposes are to promote and campaign for gender critical beliefs, and push back against organisations (like Mermaids) that work for the benefit of trans people. He argued that those purposes are not charitable. He also outlined Mermaids’ standing to bring the case.
We then moved on to submissions from Iain Steele, representing the Charity Commission, who made submissions on the relevant law, and suggested that the standing test should be applied narrowly.
On Tuesday, we began with submissions from Karon Monaghan KC, representing LGBA. She argued that LGBA’s Articles of Association were ‘clear and unambiguous’, suggesting that there was no need to look beyond the words on the page to discern LGBA’s purposes. She re-emphasised Iain Steele’s submission from the day before that the public benefits from debate between charities with differing views. She argued that Mermaids has no standing to bring the case.
We then moved to the final reply from Michael Gibbon KC. He again submitted that the Tribunal could, and needed to, look beyond the words on the page in order to understand LGBA’s purposes, which Mermaids say are not properly charitable and for the public benefit. He submitted that there is no basis in law for the proposition that debate or conflict between two organisations is in itself in the public interest.
He repeated that Mermaids does have standing to bring the case, but invited the Tribunal to make findings on the other issues in the case whatever its decision on standing. Karon Monaghan KC supported this submission. Iain Steele, however, requested that if Mermaids is found not to have standing, the Tribunal stop there and not make further findings.
The Tribunal gave no indication of when we can expect a judgment, but given the complexity of the issues we anticipate a wait of at least several weeks, likely months.
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You can read Mermaids’ skeleton argument here, and counsel’s speaking note here. Please note unconfirmed references relate to a pending Tribunal transcript from the previous hearing. Witness statements are available here.