f2 Freelance Photographer - Ewan Mathers

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f2 Freelance Photographer - Ewan Mathers

Cannabis returns to class B classificationThe Government’s decision toreturn cannabis to a stricter drugclassification came into effect on26 January.Cannabis has been restoredto class B status, reversing thedowngrade to class C that tookplace in 2004.Since the law was softenedjudges, police, parents andmental health experts havecalled for the move to bereversed because of the damageit has caused.The Christian InstituteMore online...To download a free copyof Going Soft on Cannabisgo to christian.org.ukwarned about the dangers ofdowngrading cannabis as farback as 1997.The arguments presentedin our 2002 briefing, Going Softon Cannabis, are now widelyaccepted.A U-turn was announced inMay last year by Home SecretaryJacqui Smith, who pointed toevidence of the drug’s harmfuleffects.Under a new penalty ordertimed to coincide with thereturn to class B, the drug will betreated on a ‘three strikes andyou’re out’ basis.A person caught withcannabis will be given a warningon the first occasion, an £80 fineif caught a second time and willface arrest on the third offence.Charity Commission publishes improved guidanceThe Charity Commission, charities regulatorfor England and Wales, has published the newguidance it will use to assess the charitable status ofchurches and other religious organisations.We do not believe that churches will face anydifficulties complying with the law. The guidanceis not legally binding but trustees of religiouscharities are required to “haveregard to” the Commission’sanalysis. The Commission saysthis means trustees should beable to show that they are awareof the guidance, have taken it intoaccount where relevant and havegood reasons if they choose notto follow it.As a result of a consultationon draft guidance held lastyear, the Charity Commissionhas addressed several concernsraised by Christian groups. Forexample, the draft guidancesuggested that the Commissionwas intending to regulatemembership criteria of religiousgroups, including churches. Thissuggestion is absent from the finalguidance. The final guidance alsocontains assurances that vexatiousand unsubstantiated complaints tothe Commission about religious charities will bedismissed.Despite the improvements, there are still someworrying parts of the guidance. We still haveconcerns about the Commission’s approach tocharities which have the sole purpose of seekingto convert people from one religion to another,though there is an encouragingrecognition that evangelism isregarded as a central part of theChristian religion.The guidance also implies thatthe Commission can adjudicate onwhat is correct religious doctrineand practice. But these are mattersthe Commission is neither able norsupposed to determine.Fundamentally, we believethat the Charity Commission iswrong in law to apply an ‘activitiestest’ assessing the benefits versusthe detriments of a charity’sactivities. According to someleading experts in charity law theCommission has misinterpreted thenew Charities Act. These experts saythat under the Act ‘public benefit’should have the meaning developedby English case law, which does notinclude an activities test.

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