Police contacted after inquiry finds banned trustee continued to control charity

06 Mar 2024 News

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Civil Society Media

A disqualified trustee continued to hold significant control over his legal advice charity after his ban, the Charity Commission has reported.

The Commission’s statutory inquiry report into the Joint Armed Forces Legal Advocacy Service (JAFLAS) says that Alan Blacker directed the actions of the charity’s three other trustees after his ban, including answering correspondence from the regulator on their behalf.

It reported handing Blacker a fresh 15-year ban and referred its concerns that an individual was acting while disqualified to Greater Manchester Police.

The Commission froze the charity’s bank account, directed the other trustees to cease fundraising and disqualified them from holding trusteeships.

Its inquiry could not establish how the charity’s objects were being met, or if the charity was operating for the public benefit. 

JAFLAS was dissolved in December 2022 and removed from the public register of charities.

Action taken

Former solicitor Blacker was banned from serving as a charity trustee in January 2020 after he was convicted of benefit fraud.

He applied to the Commission for a waiver and was twice rejected before unsuccessfully appealing to the Charity Tribunal.

The Commission opened its inquiry in 2022 due to concerns Blacker was still involved with JAFLAS and found its trustees failed to demonstrate a clear distinction between the charity and a private company controlled by Blacker.

It found similarities in the names of both organisations and a proposed transfer of the charity’s assets into Blacker’s business, which is not permitted in charity law, and found that donations made through the charity’s website went to Blacker’s account.

The inquiry concluded that Blacker’s continued involvement in JAFLAS amounted to serious misconduct and/or mismanagement in the administration of a charity. 

Blacker has been disqualified by the Commission from being a charity trustee or holding a senior position in a charity for 15 years, adding to his automatic disqualification which would have expired in October 2024.

It also found that the three other trustees’ response to Blacker’s automatic disqualification fell short of the standard expected of them and that their behaviour also amounted to serious misconduct and/or mismanagement.

Paul Bohill has been disqualified for 10 years, while Stephen Ashforth and Julie Ashforth were banned for seven years from 20 November 2023.

‘Trustees failed to respond appropriately’

Amy Spiller, head of investigations at the Commission, said: “The Commission is clear that a disqualified individual cannot continue to act in a position of power within a charity.

“However, our inquiry found that Dr Blacker held a dominant position at JAFLAS prior to and following his automatic disqualification.

“Trustees are responsible for the administration and management of their charity, and for taking proper steps to respond when things go wrong.

“In this case, the trustees failed to respond appropriately to the automatic disqualification of a trustee.

“Charity trustees share ultimate responsibility for governing a charity and directing how it is managed and run.

“Where the conduct of trustees falls well below the standards expected, as is the case here, there can be damage to the reputation of the charity and of the wider charity sector itself.”

JAFLAS has been contacted for comment.

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