CoA rejects Times journalist’s FOI bid into George Galloway fund

Barristers from 5 Essex Court and 11KBW have defeated opponents from 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square in the latest round of a Freedom of Information Act (FOI) row relating to former MP George Galloway’s Mariam Appeal.

Journalist Dominic Kennedy of The Times was appealing an earlier High Court decision that found that the Charity Commission did not have to release information about three inquiries it had done into the Mariam Appeal.

Kennedy sought disclosure of the information under the FOI Act 2000, which the commission claimed to be exempt from.

Jason Beer QC of 5 Essex Court led Rachel Kamm of 11KBW represented the Charity Commission, having been instructed directly.

Philip Coppell QC and Andrew Sharland of 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square represented Kennedy, instructed by Bates Wells & Braithwaite partner Rupert Earle.

While the Information Tribunal had earlier found that the Charity Commission’s refusal to disclose the information requested by Kennedy amounted to an interference with his right to freedom of expression – a decision the commission was cross-appealing – the Court of Appeal ultimately rejected Kennedy’s appeal.

Lord Justices Ward and Etherton and Sir Robin Jacob accepted the Charity Commission’s cross-appeal.

That said, Etherton LJ said that the issues raised by Kennedy’s appeal “are important ones”, meaning he would “grant permission to appeal to the Supreme Court”.

The Miriam Appeal was set up by then Labour MP Galloway to raise funds for medical supplies to send to Iraq to help a four-year-old Iraqi girl suffering from leukaemia. The appeal was wound up in 2003.

A Charity Commission inquiry found that at least £230,000 I the fund was from “improper donations” linked to Saddam Hussein’s oil-for-food programme.

Interveners in the case The Information Commissioner and The Secretary of State for Justice were represented by 11KBW’s Ben Hooper and Karen Steyn, respectively. They were instructed directly.