New trustees may face criminal record checks

The Charity Commission could require all new trustees to undergo Criminal Records Bureau checks after it unwittingly allowed a charity to be set up in the name of a convicted paedophile.

The charity, Give Kids A Break, was registered by the Daily Mirror under the name of John Harrison, soon after he was freed from jail last year after serving a sentence for possessing child pornography.

Andrew Hind, chief executive of the Charity Commission, said: "A loophole has been thrown into the spotlight and we accept that there needs to be a more foolproof system to protect children and vulnerable beneficiaries."

At present, an organisation that works with children or vulnerable adults and seeks charitable status needs only to tick a box on the application form declaring it will check trustees with the CRB, but it does not need to provide evidence that any checks have happened.

Hind also confirmed that no routine checks are performed to ensure people did not lie in their applications, and that an investigation would be conducted only if the commission received evidence to suggest a false declaration had been made.

"Some people in the sector think the registration process is already too rigorous, but I think we are going to have to do something," said Hind. "There is the possibility of either commissioning the Criminal Records Bureau to carry out checks, or requiring trustees to send evidence that they have passed a CRB check."

But Hind warned against a knee-jerk reaction that would create excessive bureaucracy.

"About 6,000 new charities are registered each year, and each one has six or seven trustees, so such a change would slow down the process," he said. "We are investigating the issue to find out if it's a price worth paying."

- See News, page 2.

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