Sun allegations might be examined by Fundraising Regulator

The tabloid ran a story last year about the fundraising agency Wesser International's work for St John Ambulance; a preliminary report by the FRSB will be handed to the new regulator

The Fundraising Regulator is set to consider whether to examine allegations made last year about a fundraising agency working on behalf of St John Ambulance, after the Fundraising Standards Board was unable to complete its investigation.

A spokesman for the Fundraising Regulator said it would consider looking into allegations that emerged in December in The Sun newspaper about the fundraising agency Wesser International.

The paper claimed that the company targeted the elderly and took a large chunk of the donations meant for St John Ambulance as profit. The agency said the allegations were unfounded.

The FRSB said at the time it would look into the allegations, but an FRSB spokeswoman told Third Sector last week that repeated attempts to gain evidence from the newspaper reporter and whistleblower involved in The Sun’s coverage had failed.

As a result, the FRSB, which is expected to close down within the next three months after it handed over official responsibility for fundraising regulation on 7 July, did not launch a formal investigation, but did produce a preliminary report on the case on the basis of evidence provided by Wesser and the charity.

The FRSB spokeswoman declined to share its report with Third Sector, saying that it would be passed on to the Fundraising Regulator after the FRSB’s board meeting today.

St John Ambulance suspended its work with Wesser when The Sun’s exposé came out, but the charity told Third Sector in April that it had resumed work with the agency after conducting its own investigation, which found no evidence to support the allegations.

Wesser and St John Ambulance both said last week that the FRSB had found that Wesser did not breach Section 1.2(e)(ii) of the Code of Fundraising Practice, which states: "Fundraisers must not exploit the credulity, lack of knowledge, apparent need for care and support or vulnerable circumstances of any donor at any point in time." But they also declined to share a copy of the report.

A spokesman for Wesser said: "The report will not be made public. We have always maintained that allegations made in recent newspaper articles are unfounded."

A spokeswoman for St John Ambulance said it would not be appropriate for the charity to pre-empt any of the Fundraising Regulator’s recommendations, should there be any.

The regulator’s spokesman said: "It’s not immediately considered case closed – but the Fundraising Regulator will take a decision on whether to investigate if and when the FRSB passes the case on."

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