Access to society and charity records

Who has access to what records? For charitable trusts, basically the only people with the right of access to the trust’s records are trustees, and those who gain access by virtue of a statutory power (for instance, Charities Commission staff under s 51, Charities Act 2005).  The answer is not as obvious in the case of societies (whether charitable or otherwise). Members of a society have the right to access information about themselves, as summarised in an earlier article (Issue 161, 3 June 2011): Generally speaking, individuals are entitled to know what information an organisation holds about them.  However, they can only access information about themselves, not other people (which may require some editing of information disclosed), and the release of information might sometimes result in an unjustified breach of another person’s and in employment situations confidential references can usually be withheld.  Sometimes the provisions of an organisation’s constitution and the Privacy Act and Principles may need to be compared as members may have rights under the constitution to more information than might otherwise be permissible. Wider access to general society records? I have long held the view that society records are not generally accessible to any member who asks for them, in the absence of clear guidance in the constitution.  For instance in Society Law in New Zealand (2nd Ed, 2009, LexisNexis, at 9.2.9) I suggest that “Apart from distribution of the minutes to members entitled, no other person should have access to them other than by decision of a meeting of the body to which those minutes relate” (a proposition based on Re Londonderry’s Settlement [1965] Ch...