< This story has been amended - see below
The League Against Cruel Sports has been accused of using £12,000 of charity funds on legal defence for its chief executive after he was reportedly involved in a fight in a pub.
According to a report published in The Times newspaper today, Joe Duckworth, who stepped down from his role at the head of the charity last year, was involved in an altercation in a Surrey pub in 2014, which the league decided had occurred only because of his position at the charity.
According to The Times, the row broke out between Duckworth and a 30-year-old man who approached the table where Duckworth and his family were sitting. Duckworth reportedly swore at the man, calling him a "f***ing terrier man", before getting into a heated discussion with him about hunting.
Duckworth’s wife Julie told The Times that the man then physically assaulted her husband.
The Times claims to have seen records from a closed meeting on the issue in which the charity ‘s trustees agreed to pay from charity funds for Duckworth’s criminal defence fees to the law firm JD Spicer Zeb.
The fees were reportedly paid without the knowledge of the Charity Commission, which the newspaper said believed the charity did not pay any legal costs. But the league told The Times that it had informed the Charity Commission that it was spending charitable funds on its chief executive’s defence.
A spokesman for the Charity Commission said in a statement that it had received a complaint, which it reviewed. "With regards to the payment of legal fees, from information supplied to the commission we concluded that the charity did not pay any legal costs. The commission determined that there were no regulatory concerns that required our intervention."
He said that after further concerns had been raised with the commission, it made contact with the charity and would be meeting the trustees to assess if there are any regulatory issues.
According to The Times, Duckworth pleaded not guilty to a charge of using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour and was bound over for the sum of £500, while his assailant was given a community supervision order for common assault.
A spokesman for the League Against Cruel Sports told Third Sector that the charity would be meeting the Charity Commission this afternoon to discuss the matter.
< This story originally quoted a Charity Commission spokesman saying that it would not have objected to the charity paying for Duckworth’s legal fees from charitable funds, but the commission says it is assessing if there are any regulatory concerns.