Reinstatement of Patrick Sookhdeo at Barnabas Aid International would raise serious concerns, Charity Commission says

Sookhdeo, international director of the poverty relief charity, was convicted of sexual assault; the charity said it was considering asking Sookhdeo not to resign

Patrick Sookhdeo
Patrick Sookhdeo

The Charity Commission has said it would have "serious regulatory concerns" if a charity allowed a director to return to his post, which it says is a trustee position, after being convicted of three crimes.

Patrick Sookhdeo, international director of Barnabas Aid International, a poverty relief charity, was convicted in February of one count of sexual assault and two of intimidating a witness or a juror. He was given three community sentences of three months each for each offence to run concurrently.

A spokeswoman for the commission said it was in discussions with trustees of Barnabas Aid International (BAI) after they said they were considering asking Sookhdeo not to resign as international director.

The commission has been looking into the parent charity, Barnabas Fund, which works with persecuted Christians around the world, because of concerns about Sookhdeo's conduct, although this is not a statutory inquiry or formal investigation.

Roderick Westrop, chief operating officer of Barnabas Aid International, told Third Sector last week that Sookhdeo would appeal against one or more of his convictions, although he did not say which ones. Nobody from the charity was available to comment today on whether the international director position was a trustee role.

Sookhdeo offered to resign as international director of BAI following his conviction. Westrop said the trustees would ask him to reconsider his decision at a board meeting in June.

A spokeswoman for the Charity Commission it had been told the trustees were considering whether to reinstate him as international director, and that this was a trustee position.

The spokeswoman said: "I can confirm that the commission has an ongoing case involving the Barnabas Fund. The case was opened in November 2014, after a range of concerns were raised with us, including about the conduct of the charity’s former trustee and director, Patrick Sookhdeo. Sookhdeo has since been found guilty of a charge of sexual assault and two charges of intimidating witnesses and has resigned as a trustee.

"We are aware that the trustees of the charity are considering asking Mr Sookhdeo to serve again as a trustee. This step would potentially give rise to serious regulatory concerns; we are therefore engaging with the trustees to clarify a number of points about their decision making processes. We cannot comment further at this stage."

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