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Is your charity safe?
Tuesday 21st January 2014

A recent report issued in December 2013 by the Charity Commission for England and Wales reveals that its investigations of compliant casework shows financial abuse and mismanagement were among the top issues last year.  Nearly 80% of the Charity Commission’s investigations into charities between April 2012 and March 2013 featured fraud, financial abuse and financial mismanagement.  In all, 23 out of 29 of the most serious investigations involved concerns linked to such issues.  Over one-third of the serious incidents (which must be reported to the Charity Commission), i.e. 398 of 971 involved cases of serious financial mismanagement or concerns about the application of funds.

Whilst a sense of proportionality must be retained in that there are still 190,000 registered charities, this study does demonstrate that there is no room for complacency in the management of a charity.

Trustees must be aware of their responsibilities and duties and must enforce rigorous, appropriate and proportionate standards of vigilance in financial management.

White and blue collar crime does not diminish when people come into contact with a charity and trustees must protect their funds from the incidents of fraud and abuse which, sadly from time to time, is prevalent in charities.


Charity regulator decides to register the preston down trust
Thursday 21st November 2013

The Preston Down Trust is a Plymouth Brethren Christian Church and had been trying to register as a charity.  The Charity Commission had so far refused to accept its application for registration and indeed the matter had been entered into the Tribunal process.  The process was unexpectedly suspended when the parties agreed to discuss the matter further outside of the Tribunal system.

Following some agreed amendments, the Deed of Variation has satisfied the Charity Commission that under the governing document (as now amended) the organisation is charitable and the Charity Commission will be able to regulate it and, therefore will enter it onto the Central Register of Charities.

The Charity Commission had concerns about the former trusts of the organisation in connection with “separation from evil that results in both moral and physical separation from the wider community”.  The Commission now believes it has seen evidence that the charity is increasing its level of engagement with the public and therefore is capable of being viewed as a charity at law.  It now appears that there will be public access to worship, that the charity will engage in street preaching and will encourage charitable giving, in particular disaster relief and assistance.

It should be noted, however that had the charity not been prepared to adopt a new governing document, the Commission was likely to persist in the refusal of charitable status and the matter may have proceeded before the Tribunal.  In particular, the Chief Charity Commissioners, William Shawcross, drew attention to the new explicit focus within the governing document on compassion and forgiveness, which he believes will help allay the concerns of people who remain uncomfortable with some of the practices of the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church.


Charity fraudster sentenced
Thursday 21st November 2013

Gerald Edmund, a Bristol Bishop at Bethel Apostolic Church has admitted to stealing £186,000 from his Church.

The 76 year old former Magistrate was sentenced on 17 January 2014 at Birmingham Magistrates Court to two years for stealing £186,000 from Bethel United Church of Jesus Christ Apostolic U.K. (registered charity 1047717).

Edmund, who was a Bishop at Bethel Apostolic Church in St George between 1962 and 2002 pleaded guilty to two counts of theft and one of fraud by false representation between July 2010 and February 2011.

Bethel United Church of Jesus Christ Apostolic U.K. has churches in England and Wales, the USA, Canada, Jamaica, Cuba and Nevis and operates missions in both India and Kenya.  It also has its own convention centre based in West Bromwich.

The charity is believed to now be seeking to recovery monies from Edmund.

This is a case in which justice has been done.  Charity trustees need to be aware that they must be vigilant about the care and custody of their finances and that nobody is above suspicion, which means that proper and robust systems should always be in place to protect both the individuals and charities from fraud.