Cork South Central Fine Gael TD, Jerry Buttimer, has today (Thursday) said that the regulation of charities and the interaction between State bodies and charities must be reviewed. Deputy Buttimer was commenting following a recent Prime Time report on RTÉ1, which highlighted that some unregulated charities of questionable status, which deal with addiction services, are being cited by defendants in court cases in a bid to have lesser sentences imposed.
“This week’s Prime Time report by Brian O’Connell highlighted the need to review the interaction of arms of the State with many of our charities. The investigation revealed that some courts accept the use of addiction services run by some charities of questionable status as part of a range of sentencing options available to court defendants. While we must encourage people to change from damaging patterns of behaviour, this must occur through accredited means.
“The programme reported on the activities and practices of Victory Outreach which again brought to the fore the need for robust regulation of the charity sector. It is out of genuine good will that people donate to charities and, when they do so, they give on the assumption that they are giving to a reputable body. Recent revelations threaten this goodwill and the viability of the many excellent charities that provide important services. In order to protect these genuine charities, we must ensure that those who are using the services of certain charities are not being exploited and that the court system is not being abused, there must be robust regulation of the entire sector.
“Charitable status is a designation given by the State on the understanding that a specific charitable remit is being adhered to. When a group has this status, it benefits from certain tax exemptions. In this regard, Revenue should investigate the activities and affairs of groups like Victory Outreach to ensure that they continue to meet the criteria for charitable status.
“Furthermore, the treatment of vulnerable people who are recovering from addiction is fundamental to their future lives. We cannot continue to allow these people to be further exploited, be that by using them to do unpaid work or providing fictitious treatments, as this level of exploitation can have lasting consequences. If the State can take action to eliminate this mistreatment, then it must be taken. I will be asking the Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter TD, to liaise with the judiciary with a view to establishing a code of practice on which bodies judges should consider when determining relevant sentencing options so that this damaging practice can be brought to an end.”