Charity Commission will review its refusal to name false memory charity applicant

The commission says it did not comply with the original request from a member of the public because it would breach the Data Protection Act

Charity Commission
Charity Commission

A Charity Commission lawyer will review the regulator’s decision not to release the name of a person linked to the British False Memory Society, a charity that raises awareness of cases in which adults "falsely remember" having been sexually abused as children.

The BFMS, which was registered as a charity in 1994, says on its website that it abhors genuine cases of child abuse, but believes that "a number of people, usually during psychotherapy or counselling, are recovering ‘memories’ of having been sexually abused in childhood, even though those accused deny such abuse and there is no corroborating evidence".

It says the charity "aims to raise public awareness of the inherent dangers of false memory".

In January, Barbara Richards, a member of the public who said she had survived child abuse, asked the regulator to release the name of the person who applied to register the BFMS as a charity. She claimed in a letter to the commission that the charity had been founded by Ralph Underwager, whom she accused of appearing to support paedophilia in a magazine interview in the 1990s.

Madeline Greenhalgh, director of the BFMS, told Third Sector that Underwager did not found the charity but that it was founded by Roger Scotford. She said, however, that she could not give the name of the person who applied to register the charity, who was a trustee.

"That individual is now deceased and therefore I cannot ask him if he is prepared to be named," she said. "It is not appropriate for me to name him."

Greenhalgh said Underwager founded the US-based False Memory Syndrome Foundation, which has no formal links to BFMS. She said Underwager, who died in 2003, resigned from the False Memory Syndrome Foundation after carrying out what she called an "awful interview".

In its response to Richards’ request, the Charity Commission confirmed the date of registration but said it could not give the name of the applicant because doing so "would contravene the principles of the Data Protection Act 1998". It said the details of a current correspondent for the charity were available on the commission’s website.

However, the regulator has now appointed a member of its legal team, Louise Platt, to assess its decision not to publish the name, after Richards complained about the decision.

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