John Cooper, who is the former chair of the League Against Cruel Sports, has criticised the Charity Commission in a column in The Times today for not responding to his concerns about how the charity is being run, but the regulator says the claims are "misleading".
Writing today he said that since complaining to the regulator almost a year ago about misconduct at the charity, he is “still awaiting a formal acknowledgment”.
His complaint to the regulator is part of an ongoing dispute between Cooper, who was the chair of trustees until 2015, and its current management over how a £3.5m legacy was used. Cooper said that his complaint to the commission was his “last resort” after the charity did not engage with his concerns.
The commission's director of legal services, Kenneth Dibble, has now written to the editor of The Times to say the claim that the commission has not responded is "factually inaccurate and misleading" and that he had personally spoken to Cooper.
Last year The Times ran an article claiming that the charity had “squandered a fortune” on staff pay rises, foreign travel and legal bills.
At the time the charity hotly refuted the allegations and said it had not actually spent any of the legacy the newspaper referred to. It also accused The Times of not giving its version of events a fair amount of space.
Writing for this website the charity’s campaigns director, Tom Quinn, said: “We believe that the attack on us is politically motivated. People who go hunting or shooting really don’t like us, and they know that because we run high profile and successful, fact-based campaigns against them, we are dangerous.”
It made a complaint to the Independent Press Standards Organisation, but IPSO ruled that the newspaper had not breached the code.
Charity Commission letter in full
In an opinion piece (“charity regulator needs to prove it’s up to the job”, 17 February 2017) John Cooper QC claims he has not had a ‘proper answer’ from the Charity Commission to complaints he made about a charity last year. This is factually inaccurate and misleading.
Mr Cooper did contact us about “serious allegations” about a charity, but did not substantiate his concerns, or provide evidence. We nevertheless took the matter seriously and invited individual whistleblowers to explain their concerns in person. However, our questions were not answered and no evidence was provided.
It is wrong for Mr Cooper to claim he has not been in contact with us about this. I spoke to Mr Cooper in person, explaining the need for evidence, which thus far neither he or the whistleblowers had provided. Mr Cooper assured me that he would send a ‘dossier’. Since then, no substantive allegations or indeed evidence have been provided to the Commission by either party.
However, because of the high profile nature of the issues, we engaged with the trustees, inspected the charity’s books and records and found no evidence to support concerns.
The Commission is a proportionate, evidence-based regulator. We take very seriously concerns of wrongdoing about charities. But we cannot take this particular matter any further without evidence.
If Mr Cooper has evidence, I would ask him to share it with us as a matter of urgency, so that we can assess it in line with our usual processes.
Director of Legal Services, Charity Commission